If you've never known a family who made the gutwrenching decision to abort or bring to term a fetus with physical anomalies "incompatible with life," you need to read the first person accounts on the website A Heartbreaking Choice. These are the kinds of pregnancies Kansas doctor George Tiller ended before he was murdered at church on Sunday.
I in no way mean to denigrate women who choose to carry to term babies who won't live long outside the womb. But I have to wonder, can Bill O'Reilly and his fellow anti-abortion hate mongers seriously read the passage below by an Andrew Sullivan reader and tell me this is the only option women should have?
Imagine what it is like to walk around in your third trimester, obviously pregnant, while well-meaning people ask you about this baby that you don't expect to be taking home from the hospital. Innocuous comments become incredibly hurtful in this context. Then imagine the baby survives and days later you take home this child who will die. In case you might relax and pretend for a little while that everything is okay, a hospice nurse comes to your house every couple of days and reminds you the signs and symptoms of death. Every time you open the refrigerator you see the narcotics you've been given to ease the baby's suffering once things get really bad.
Eventually, this baby dies a grueling death in your arms and you go home to an empty house. You want another baby, but are paralyzed by the thought of having another child with the same condition, yet you desperately want a child that is related to the child you lost. You find yourself unable to conceive and resentful of those who have many healthy children so easily. The infertility takes its toll on your marriage. The suffering and injustice takes its toll on your faith.
I often wonder what would have happened if they had the abortion. I'm not sure my sister-in-law could have lived with that decision, but at least she was given the gift of making a deliberate choice and this did make a difference in how my brother and his wife perceived their circumstances. How do people respond when they feel trapped?
I agree with those who believe abortion is a selfish choice, but in some cases the cost to the self is too high and the benefit to the other is too hard to determine. I'm afraid that the murder of Dr. Tiller will hasten the decline in doctors willing to do this work and deny desperate people of options.