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Profound Wonder Is the Way to Welcome Babies with Fatal Conditions

Wen Yan King

Peter Saunders - MercatorNet - published on 10/29/13 - updated on 06/08/17

19. We should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the media or those with an agenda. I was deeply shocked that the BBC would interview a deeply traumatised grieving woman who had just heard the most devastating news of her life in front of a national audience just days before one of the most horrendous experiences a woman can go through – aborting her own baby. More than this, such hard cases should not be used by media presenters with a wider political agenda of liberalising abortion laws (see Melanie McDonough in the Spectator). This was I believe both exploitative and abusive. Huge sensitivity is also needed with the language we use. These are babies living with anencephaly. They are not ‘anencephalics’, ‘dead babies’ or ‘non-persons’. These are dehumanising terms. Just as we would not accept the terms ‘spastic’, ‘moron’, ‘imbecile’ or ‘vegetable’ to describe human beings, neither should we accept these.

20. Death is not the end. I have attempted to address the points above to a general audience but allow me one explicitly Christian argument. As a Christian I believe that human beings are made for eternity. This earthly existence is just the ‘Shadowlands’. So when we think of loved ones, who have died with dementia, we do not think of them as they were but as they will be. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection we look forward to the resurrection of the body into a world where there is no dying, mourning, death or pain. In this new world there will be no anencephaly. The Christian ethic is to treat all people as we would treat Christ and to treat others as Christ would have done. The bottom line is that we should treat babies with anencephaly as if they were Jesus himself, and treat them in the way he would have done.

I mentioned above an experience I had as a junior doctor which changed my attitudes to abortion and disability.

The administrative clerk on the medical ward where I was working was heavily pregnant and I asked her when she was due. She gave me the date and before I could say anything else said, ‘my baby has anencephaly’. While I was inwardly asking why she had not had an abortion, she added, ‘I could not bring myself to end the life of my own baby’.

The baby was born a few weeks later and survived about a week. She held it, nursed and cared for it and said her goodbyes before its inevitable death.

Up until that point I had not contemplated that such an approach was even possible. She not only demonstrated that it was but taught me a huge lesson about courage, compassion and how to face and handle tragedy, grief and bereavement. I have never forgotten it and resolved then, that if I was ever in the same situation I would want to do the same.

I have heard many similar testimonies since from women in similar situations who have made similar decisions and have become even more convinced that this is best way to handle it (See testimonies here, here, here, here and here and resources for parents here).

Having a baby with a severe disability changes one’s life forever whatever choice one makes. But choosing to offer the hospitality of pregnancy and a mother’s care and compassion to a dependent and severely disabled relative, and to be willing to shoulder the inevitable pain of separation and bereavement, is I believe the best way through this tragic situation.

Peter Saunders is Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship in the UK and was formerly a general surgeon. He also serves on the boards of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association and Coalition for Marriage and is campaign director for the Care Not Killing Alliance. This article has been republished with permission from Christian Medical Comment.

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Tags:
AbortionDeathParentingPro-life
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