The power of words when an ultrasound reveals your baby has a “birth defect”

By Dave Andrusko

Our last post of the day was made possible because a friend passed along a story that appears in the May edition of Christianity Today. Written by Kimi Harris, her lovely musings run under the headlined “When Our Ultrasound Revealed a Birth Defect, My Doctor Offered an Abortion: We’ve never regretted saying no, but his words still haunt me.

You will want to read it for yourself so let only just address two components.

Harris writes, “A baby with any birth defect—life threatening or not—challenges us personally and as a society to examine what our values are. The words we use to discuss such situations are vitally important.”

That was illustrated in the very opening when Harris contrasted what was said to her and her husband by various medical personnel when a scan taken roughly half-way through her pregnancy detected their baby “had a severe heart defect that would kill her soon after birth without medical intervention.”

There was the “specialist” who “described what abortion would look like in some detail” and did so “in such a detached and non-empathetic manner.”

Then there was the cardiologist who “told us in gentle tones of the wonderful lives she saw so many of her young patients experiencing after the needed open-heart surgeries. She was painting word pictures of laughing children, bikes, and a bright future when her face suddenly bloomed bright red.”

A moment later the cardiologist realized that, as a professional, she had made a faux pas. She hadn’t asked if they were considering an abortion. However, Harris writes,

While she was embarrassed by her professional blunder, what she could not know was that her “mistake” was a balm to our hearts. She had revealed how she really felt: Our daughter was worth saving.

Later, Harris reminds us of a truth that is too often either forgotten, ignored, or angrily dismissed. A

utilitarian viewpoint that views abortion as a good solution for infants like our daughter misses the fact that all mothers give birth to children destined for death. All of our children will face suffering and death at some point. I’ve seen some advocate for abortion as a kinder option than allowing babies to be born only to go through the discomfort of death. Yet abortion merely brings death sooner; it cannot provide an escape from death, pain, or grief.

A powerful reminder that “Doctors bring their own values to the table and parents can be put into a vulnerable position when given slanted advice.” How many non-treatment decisions have been made, not because they were the parents’ wishes, but because they were guilted into thinking that not “allowing” their child to die was an act of cruelty?

Please read Kimi Harris’s piece.

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