The New York Times recently published an article titled “My Abortion, at 23 Weeks.” The author explains that she was pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl, but that the boy was diagnosed with a herniated diaphragm. He would require surgery and life support for a period after birth.
The author and her husband could not bear “the thought of hearing him gasp for air,” so they chose to have their son aborted with a lethal injection into his heart. “He died in a warm and loving place, inside me,” she writes. It was for his own good, she thought.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscular barrier between the chest and the abdomen. It separates your heart and lungs from your abdominal organs (stomach, intestines, spleen and liver). A defect in the baby’s diaphragm allows one or more of her abdominal organs to move into the chest and occupy the space where the lungs are supposed to be and as a result, the lungs are unable to develop properly. In the majority of cases, only one lung is affected.
While the prognosis for a diaphragmatic hernia depends on how badly the lungs are damaged or underdeveloped, according to the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the survival rate for CDH is more than 80 percent. Which is a lot more than the chances his parents gave him.
Ability (or disability) is irrelevant to the worth and dignity of a human being. We do not, or at least should not, think less of people who have physical and mental handicaps. Parents may not kill their toddler if they learn that she has autism. They may not execute a 10-year-old with spina bifida because they think she would be better off dead.
Since disability itself does not justify killing, the killing of disabled unborn babies could only be justified if the unborn (whether disabled or not) do not have the same value and right to life as human beings at later developmental stages, such as toddlers and 10-year-old children.
Just as ability is irrelevant to human value, so too is age, size and location. All human beings share an equal right to life simply by virtue of their humanity. Killing disabled people, in the womb or out, is morally wrong.
It is deeply mistaken to suppose that the life of a disabled person is not worth living. People with disabilities live meaningful and often happy lives. And caring for them, though difficult, is enriching and rewarding, as parents and caregivers attest.
Pro-abortion advocates will argue that a pregnant woman should not have to endure an emotionally traumatic pregnancy. A child diagnosed with a disease or condition that is fatal will likely die before, during or shortly after birth. Just because someone will die provides no moral justification for abortion.
We may not kill terminal patients in the cancer ward or elderly grandparents in the nursing home (at least not yet). All of us will die at some point in the future, but that does not mean that we should not be treated with dignity and respect in the present. The reality of natural death by disease does not mean that an unnatural death through abortion or euthanasia is ever okay.
Abortion, even in these tragic circumstances does not serve the emotional and psychological health of pregnant women. According to Perinatal Hospice.org: “There is no research to support the popular assumption that terminating the pregnancy is easier on the mother psychologically. “In fact, research to date suggests the opposite.” One 2004 study (published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and gynaecology) concludes that abortion due to “fetal malformation” is a “traumatic event” that “entails the risk of severe and complicated grieving.”
“You matter because you are you, and you matter until the last moment of your life.” Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement.