Empowering mothers to dwell in the realm of the possible, even if it’s never been tried

By Dave Andrusko

We have written several times about pro-life Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wa.), her husband, Dan, and their remarkable daughter Abigail Rose, whose fetal anomaly was so devastating they were told there was no chance she would make it until birth and that women whose babies had conditions like Abigail’s consider an abortion.

Their story is especially timely in light of the torrent of up-until-birth legislation introduced and/or passed in places such as New York, Virginia, Vermont, Illinois, and New Mexico. Since the basic rationale for late-late abortions is severe fetal anomalies, the title of her op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal–“We Overcame a Grim Prenatal Prognosis: Doctors said our baby couldn’t survive birth. We tried something new, and it worked”—tell us that, yes, indeed she does “have some personal perspective on the matter” that is important to hear.

Each time I read her re-telling of what took place in 2013, I admire the couple even more. At her 20-week scan, they learned that Abigail Rose had Potter Syndrome, a condition that develops in utero where the baby has no amniotic fluid, meaning she had no kidneys which are critical to lung development. Abortion was not an option for Jaime and Dan but what makes the op-ed so relevant is the impact of these devastating medical prognoses. (The underlining is mine.)

When parents are told that their in utero baby won’t survive or won’t have “quality of life”—and that the best option is to “start over, hit reset emotionally” and try again, as I was—they’re not being presented a choice at all.

Exactly.

As she explains in her op-ed,

Miraculously, our doctors were wrong. We tried something that had never been successful before: saline infusions in utero to mimic amniotic fluid. Our baby developed lungs even without kidneys—an impossible outcome to the medical world until that moment. Our doctors had given us their honest professional opinions: They hadn’t seen a baby with our daughter’s condition survive.

Rep. Herrera Beutler is not blaming doctors but adds

But doctors aren’t infallible, and we’d never have known if we hadn’t tried.

Abigail was, by all accounts, the first child to survive with this condition but that is always the case with the march of medical progress. Just like some preemie was the first to survive at 28 weeks…at 26 weeks… at 22 weeks.

Her concluding three paragraphs are fair, kind, and gentle:

What if the baby won’t have that health condition or disability after all? Even if she does, what about those loving families eager to raise a child in anticipation of a fulfilling life?

Frank Stephens, a joy-filled disability champion with Down syndrome, described how he is “a medical gift to society” and says his “extra chromosome might lead to the answer for Alzheimer’s.” Our society celebrates diversity; shouldn’t that mean full diversity, which includes all abilities? We step onto very shaky ground when we decide who lives or dies based on one’s ability, or possible lack thereof, in utero.

Care, understanding and compassion are needed at every stage of a woman’s maternal journey. To me, that means empowering mothers to dwell in the realm of the possible, even if it’s never been tried.

Editor’s note. You can read stories as they are posted during the day by going to twitter.com/daveha.