This week is history in the making. While hundreds of thousands of women march and advocate for rights to equality and promote the fair treatment of women who are bearers of the image of God and thus deserve equality, respect, protection and rights, Im reminded of another event in my life that was history-making. 9 years ago this week, I delivered a baby at 42 weeks gestation which (had we known of her condition before she was born), we would have been advised to terminate.
Ive read countless stories of other devastated moms who discovered their babies had heart defects at their 20 week ultrasound and were given the option, and sometimes advice, to end the pregnancy.
To end the life that likely would end anyway.
To spare their child pain and suffering.
Because the variables are just too complicated — the surgical “fix” may not work, may fail over time, may cause other medical complications, may hinder development, may reduce life-expectancy. Live birth and initial surgery are only the first hurdle. Should your child survive that, there are no guarantees and a special needs child like this will never outgrow the risks. There will always be the fear that as they grow and mature, that their repair may not hold up. No parent should have to see their child suffer the way mine has. I would gladly have given my right arm, or taken her place, as I watched her struggle for life in the first months, writhe in pain from an incision the length of her tiny torso, cry without a voice because of the ventilator tube down her throat and bruise from literally hundreds of needles and blood draws.
The issues surrounding the march today center around women’s rights. Around human rights. I too am gravely concerned about rights. About the rights of all who are marginalized. About the right to life. The rights of women, yet to be born, who cannot speak for themselves and yet, are no less “human” than you or I.
In the hospital where I work, I witnessed the stillbirth of a baby last year that stopped developing in the second trimester. The doctors tried to console the mom by saying that the fetus would be unrecognizable. But when this brave and bereaved momma pushed out the tiny frame of her underdeveloped babe, it was not as they had said.
But undeniably, intricately, beautifully formed and whole. A baby. A human.
Let me say, this is not a political post. I too am deeply saddened and concerned about the leadership of our country. And as a general rule, Id steer away from an issue as controversial and polarizing as abortion. First of all, because there is probably already an understanding of where I stand on this issue and second, I believe my opinion is unlikely to change anyones mind. However, the oversight of little lives in this huge campaign to liberate and empower cannot go unnoticed. I know many of you women marching do so out of love and concern for our daughters and in a hope to create something better for the next generation. But we are neglecting a fundamental value we believe in when we make right to abortion our battle call. Banners blaze claiming our uterus is private property.
And it is.
But for some, its also the home of a helpless, tiny human of which early eviction will mean extinction! We are violating the right to life of our unborn children and thats counterintuitive to our belief as we advocate for equal rights!! Im not going to try to tackle every reason for an abortion, which would require a whole series of blog posts. But in my years of working for and even directing a Pregnancy Resource Center, my compassion has only grown for women who find themselves in the impossible situation of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. Theirs is a hard road to walk often without the love and support that they desperately need to continue a pregnancy. Ive counseled victims of rape, teen moms and women in crisis situations. I was advised myself by doctors during my last two pregnancies that my own health was in danger and I was at increased risk of sudden death because of a heart condition of my own. Ive held hands as well with women who have been told their unborn child will be incompatible with life. Likewise, Ive supported through post-abortive counseling, women who made decisions that left them wrecked with regret and guilt and shame. My heart bleeds for them and I hope that all women will find grace, healing, hope and support! There is no room for anger in my heart – only love and compassion! Many women believe they have no other choice.
There are no easy, simplistic answers to the very painful and excruciating circumstances under which women have made impossible decisions. Decisions in which there is no easy out. Decisions that all bear ramifications no matter what you decide. But any decision to end a life as we claim our rights – is denying one for someone else. Abortion does not simply preserve and protect our rights to our bodies – it denies the rights of the unborn and takes a life.
My children are studying WWII and the mass execution of the disabled and mentally handicapped. We all find it unfathomable that such evil would possess mankind to make a judgement as to someones right to live based on their definition of the quality of life. And yet the same selection is made routinely when pregnancy is terminated based on assessment that the baby has defects or abnormalities. My two Downs-syndrome cousins (one of which was adopted knowingly accepting her handicap) are individuals that are adored by their siblings and that bring joy to all who know them. A niece of mine was found to have a cleft lip in utero. They, along with Evie, are lives that some would deem “imperfect”.
Is perfection the definition of worthiness of life? What about birth marks or vision problems or big ears or clubbed feet? Where do we draw the line qualifying ourselves as the almighty judge on worthiness of life? A great many handicapped, special needs and individuals with defects have been contributing members to society. And prenatal diagnosis we know for a fact, are not always correct. Yes, the potential for heartbreak is there. Babies with the most complex deformities wont live to adulthood. But that doesnt negate the fact that their lives served a purpose whether that be for months in utero, hours after birth, days, weeks or years. Life has meaning!
In this monumental day when women refuse to be silenced and many march to protest the oppression of a society that abuses, demeans and undervalues women, I’m campaigning just as ardently for another undervalued minority. Im standing for rights of the unborn who cannot advocate for themselves, for justice, for fair treatment, for respect, for women.
For all women.
Starting with the little lady who turns 9 this week whose life represents so many others whose rights have been denied, whose birthdays will not be celebrated, whose “defects” could have been beautiful parts of their unique, untold stories.