A reader writes:
I agree with the doctor’s point about heart disease being not a good argument for allowing late term abortions. I believe they should be severely restricted, and heart disease should not be one of the reasons to allow it.
However, what if the parents don’t have the health insurance to cover this surgery? It’s not an argument to allow abortion, mind you, but it is a real concern for parents of a newborn that will have to have long and difficult surgery that is “some of the most technical and demanding in all of children’s health care.” It’s easy to say that every child should be born, but the practical implications of it for many parents in our society are making it unnecessarily hard for some to fully embrace that motto, even if they want to (and I’d bet that most DO want to).
That post could have only been written by “a physician who specializes in taking care of children with these problems.” What about the emotional toll of parents and siblings, not to mention the stratospheric cost of three uninsured surgeries? Which parent quits a job to care for the sick child? Who takes care of the other children while the parents commute the baby back and forth to potentially distant specialty care? It all presumes a family or social support network that all too often doesn’t exist.
All for a 50% chance that the baby will live (and nothing said about such a person’s long-term prospects, for good health or for being able to obtain health insurance). That’s a high-wire act made for a neonatal cardiologist, but not for mere mortals. I would actually argue that a pregnant couple facing a diagnosis like this might be more inclined to terminate exactly because of the medical interventions that might be forced upon their baby. Doctors like this one are not likely to take “No” for an answer, and parents would face enormous pressure against letting nature take its course.
Physicians like that are extremely disturbing – in particular those whose careers stand to benefit if more children with cardiac defects are delivered regardless of long-term health outcomes or emotional suffering. Their involvement conveniently ends, but it’s the parents and children themselves that continue to deal with decision. Yes, it’s the parents of these children who chose to carry the pregnancy to term that have helped the field advance and for pediatric interventions to develop, but let’s not begrudge the parents who choose otherwise. There’s a great deal more to life than “viability” alone.
The intellectual arguments are often quite logical. It’s the practical reality that breaks one’s heart – and that’s where the parents should be supported for the decisions that they make, for their situation. Their God, their doctor, their family, and their finances. Not mine, not yours, and not every other person who thinks they know what’s good for them but don’t have to walk in their shoes.