Despite pro-abortion claims, parents choosing life for terminally ill babies have better mental outcomes

By Sarah Terzo 

In a short pro-abortion film aired by VICE in 2019, women who aborted severely ill and dying babies argued against laws banning late-term abortion. The women all claimed that killing their children by abortion was the right choice for their children and themselves, but many displayed obvious grief.

“My arms physically ached”

One woman’s 20-week ultrasound showed that her “desperately wanted” daughter had severe hydrocephalus. In the video, she stated, “If I could make a choice where it’s the best outcome for my child to not have to suffer, that’s what I’m going to choose. And I will choose it every day, whether it’s legal or not.”

On a personal note, one of my close friends also had severe hydrocephalus in the womb and required a shunt placed in her brain to remove the excess fluid. She carried the shunt for the rest of her life. While she died young, she bore three children and lived a full and meaningful life, touching the lives of many people. People with hydrocephalus are not better off killed before they are born.

Many of the women cried or held back tears as they told their stories. One woman said:

When you’re pregnant and you have a baby, you yearn to hold them, to feed them, to nurse them, to put them to sleep. In my situation, there was nobody to hold. [Breaks down in tears.] My arms physically ached… I yearned to just hold and cuddle this baby that I’d pictured in my mind and wanted so badly.

Women who choose not to abort their ill children do get to hold and cuddle their babies, and to mourn them as treasured children. For example, author Angie Smith’s preborn daughter Audrey was diagnosed with a fatal condition. Angie and her husband chose life and had the chance to meet their daughter. Angie says in her book, “I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy”:

I soaked every bit of her in… She had one of her eyes open just slightly and a calm expression on her face. I remember talking to her… I know I told her I loved her…

I can still feel that moment, and I thank the Lord for it. I’ve never felt the urgency of love the way I did as I cradled her. It was a desperate, peace- filled, crazy love…1

The family all took turns cuddling Audrey and spending time with her before she passed away peacefully in Angie’s arms. Angie says that in Audrey’s lifetime, “all she had ever known was love” and called the day Audrey was born “one of the best days of my life.” 

Angie was able to deliver her child alive and intact, instead of dismembered and mutilated. She was able to say goodbye and has happy memories, in contrast to the post-abortive woman’s tragic story.

Some of the women in the VICE video said discussions about late-term abortion upset them. One said, “It’s very triggering. I’m always on edge.” Another claimed, “[T]his bill just reignites everything because people that I would like to be able to tell my story to, I feel would judge me and call me [a] murderer.”

A third said, “No one seems to really factor in women’s mental health… All these laws, they don’t consider how it’s going to impact you actually trying to grieve.”

Studies show that abortion does not help grieving parents heal

But many studies show that choosing life for a terminally ill baby is associated with better mental health outcomes than choosing abortion. One study [The Journal of Clinic Ethics– www.clinicalethics.com/single_article/8R6FBJJkYFA.html] found that 97.5% of women who gave birth to their fatally sick babies had no regrets. The researchers wrote:

Parents valued the baby as a part of their family and had opportunities to love, hold, meet, and cherish their child…Although emotionally difficult, parents articulated an empowering, transformative experience that lingers over time.

Another study found similar results and concluded that couples who gave birth felt “thankfulness that they were able to spend as much time with their baby as possible.”

In a third study, which also found that couples who chose life did better emotionally than those who aborted, researchers wrote, “Our overall impression was that the parents, in spite of their grief, demonstrated love for their baby and determination to find meaning in and honor their baby’s life.”

Yet another study concluded:

Pregnancy continuation was … associated with less psychiatric distress in women. As a group, women who continued reported significantly less despair, avoidance and depression than women who terminated… 

The active choice involved in termination does appear to increase the likelihood that guilt will be experienced, even in the case of lethal fetal anomalies.

Another study found that “Couples experienced selective termination as traumatic … [T]he women ultimately felt as if they were betraying themselves and their babies.”

Another study found that almost 17% of women who aborted sick babies were diagnosed with a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression within 14 months of the abortion.

It is abortion, not pro-life laws, that harm the mothers and fathers of terminally ill children.

1. Angie Smith,  I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Publishing Group, 2010) pp.84 – 85.