By Dave Andrusko
Coming from a perspective that enshrines “choice,” if there is any sure thing, it is that no matter what the outcome, the decision must always rest exclusively in the hands of the mother.
What if the choice is for life? No matter, the proper measuring stick is not that the baby is alive but that the mother alone had the right to give the thumbs up for life or thumbs down for death.
She chose one. She could have chosen the other. Left/right, Coke/Pepsi. What counts is the identity of the decision maker—that it always and ever is the woman—not the ethical quality of the decision, that counts.
Not just the conclusion to Dallas Schubert’s story, “Having a Severely Premature Baby Strengthened My Support for Every Woman’s Right to Choose” but the logic leading up to it is so counter-intuitive that I’ve re-read it more once, always with a sense of amazement.
Ms. Schubert’s daughter is now a teenager, healthy, happy, and “the joy of my life.” But years ago, Ms. Schubert’s prospects were grim.
Schubert does a superb job of laying out the highs and lows of a delivery in which she and her husband were given the option of delivering her very, very premature child and doing nothing, or delivering her baby girl and doing everything possible to rescue her baby.
Schubert writes of her daughter (who was born “at just under 24 weeks, weighing 590 grams and measuring just 12 inches”)
I couldn’t let her go. Lying there pumped full of magnesium, scared and tired, I couldn’t let go of the idea of that child I had become attached to over those almost six months. I couldn’t let go of my expectations of parenthood. I couldn’t accept the inevitability of grief. And so I said, “Do everything you can.” The NICU team was called, I was whisked to surgery, and we began the next stage of our journey.
It was touch and go, with the odds very much against her baby. But she survived and after 100 days in the hospital, came home. Schubert writes, “We were lucky. We were amazingly, extraordinarily lucky.”
How does this beautiful story of courage and commitment and good fortune possibly get transmogrified into even greater support and empathy “for women’s access to later abortions”?
For starters, the husband, who makes an appearance in the beginning of her account, is excluded when it’s crunch time.
“The choice regarding my daughter’s care was mine, as it should have been,” Schubert wrote. “It was both my moral right and my responsibility. I was her mother. She was growing in me. The complex decisions about her life were mine to make, and I made them as best I could.”
Of course, once her daughter was delivered, she would no longer “be growing in me.” What would ensue–and her daughter could have faced significant challenges as she grew, a major component of Schubert’s retrospective moral calculus–would happen both to Schubert and her husband.
Apparently, it never crossed her mind that her husband could just as well have said, “But I was her father.”
She goes on
I made a choice that was born of my hopes, my dreams, the degree of attachment I had to that pregnancy, and my expectations about motherhood. I made a choice to avoid immediate grief and pain. That choice could have condemned her to a more painful death, or a painful life. The consequences of that decision were not just mine to live with; they were hers as well. I believe it is from that very same place that most women make the decision to have an abortion, or any other number of decisions regarding pregnancy and parenting. With the ability to bear children comes the awesome and often difficult power to make decisions about that life.
Again, she was not carrying a “pregnancy.” Schubert was carrying their–not her–daughter! To justify blanket support for “later abortions,” Schubert draws a parallel between her right not to have actively treated their daughter at birth and the decision to abort a child who presumably was facing the possibility of major medical difficulties.
However, pro-abortion mythology to the contrary notwithstanding, overwhelmingly, most babies are aborted late/later in pregnancy not because of “fetal anomalies,” but because their mothers often refuse to acknowledge they are pregnant and/or because they are ambivalent.
As noted above, Schubert writes, “With the ability to bear children. comes the awesome and often difficult power to make decisions about that life.”
How about the awesome and difficult responsibility to care for the child–before and after birth?
Schubert ends by contemplating the likelihood that if she had chosen otherwise, she would not have received the many compliments she did: “society” would “not have supported and embraced me.”
This leads to an angry “how dare you?” conclusion:
“I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have my choice taken from me, or to have endured shame and stigma from society for it.”
At the risk of stating the obvious, Schubert had already taken the choice to have a role in what happened to their daughter away from her husband. And to make an equally obvious point, the dire predictions the doctors gave her lo those many years ago– that there was “a 25 percent chance of survival if we resuscitated, and that if she survived she had an over 75 percent chance of significant disability and chronic medical need”–proved to be 100% wrong.
Talk about learning all the wrong lessons.
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