By Ashley Leenerts, Texas Right to Life
When a family receives a life-limiting diagnosis for their preborn child, these parents face life-altering changes to their future plans. This is a heartbreaking situation that has been highlighted in recent news because of a lawsuit against Texas’ strong Pro-Life laws, which do not include an exception for cases in which the preborn child has a life-limiting disability. The answer to such a tragic circumstance is not abortion but coming alongside that child and family to provide perinatal palliative care services.
Perinatal palliative care is a holistic approach providing medical, social, and spiritual services to families whose preborn child may have a short life inside and/or outside the womb. These services help the family through this difficult situation and maximize every moment they have with their child. Women who choose to carry their preborn child after learning of a life-limiting diagnosis report significantly less despair, avoidance, and depression than women who choose abortion.
In contrast, many women who are influenced and pressured to obtain abortions in this situation come to express feelings of regret. One study indicated 17% of these women were diagnosed with major depression and 22% sought psychiatric treatment.
Abel Speaks is a Texas-based nonprofit run by Daniel and Kelly Crawford, who have faced their own struggle with a fetal life-limiting diagnosis. They have built a compassionate community and resources for families living through these unexpected hardships. When a child’s Life might not look like all that was planned, Abel Speaks comes alongside these families, helping them prepare, celebrate, and even mourn and commemorate whatever comes.
Now, it is important to clarify that prenatal testing is not always accurate. In January 2022 The New York Times published an article [https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/01/upshot/pregnancy-birth-genetic-testing.html] reviewing the magnitude of the inaccuracies of fetal testing, which show false positives more frequently than true positives. This leads families to worry about something that is not actually present in their child, or worse, end their preborn child’s life as a result.
However, inaccuracies in fetal testing or not, there are diseases and conditions that threaten preborn children’s lives, leaving families feeling helpless when looking toward the future. Often, when these conditions are detected, the automatic “solution” is abortion rather than medical treatment and support to allow that cherished little Life to continue.
Abortion cannot repair limbs, cure diseases, or offer healing, and in its wake mothers, fathers, and families are left hurt too.
This is where Abel Speaks offers what our society often forgets — they value and love these children and stand beside their families in the pain and joy of it all.
In 2019, Kelly Crawford came to the Texas Capitol to testify in favor of Senate Bill 1033, which would have ended the fetal abnormality loophole that existed in the Texas abortion laws until this past year.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned and elective abortion was prohibited from the moment of fertilization in Texas, the only exception remaining in our Pro-Life laws is for the life of the mother. Kelly shared that her son was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a life-limiting disorder, and immediately her doctors encouraged her and her husband, Daniel, to have an abortion and try for a “better pregnancy.”
However, Kelly said, “If my child’s death was impending, I would not be the one to set that date. So rather than giving our son an abortion, we gave him a name, Abel Paul Crawford.”
She continued, “Terminating my son would not have spared me an ounce of loss or despair. It would have only robbed me of the joyful memories.” She finished by saying, “We do not want to shame families looking at the past, but we do want to strengthen families living in the present. We want more stories marked not just by loss, but also with joy and hope and Life.”
The current lawsuit regards Texas’ Pro-Life law that protects precious little lives like Abel’s, who might not survive for long outside of the womb. But, like the Abel Speaks website says, “every child’s life can be beautiful and meaningful, no matter the length.” Every human being has inherent dignity and worth, and their Life should be protected from the very beginning, regardless of where on the spectrum of disability they may fall.
In an era when the world is so quick to judge another’s worth based on his or her abilities, appearance, or health, we must reflect the Crawfords by cherishing and loving the gift of Life.
Thus far, Abel Speaks has helped hundreds of families across the United States find compassionate medical treatment, prepare for delivery of their child, celebrate their baby’s birth, and when the time comes, mourn and process the loss of their treasured little one’s Life.
Texas should not walk back our strong Pro-Life laws. Rather, we should cultivate an environment where the automatic reaction to a fetal disability is not abortion, but compassion, support, and hope.
If you or someone you know is facing a life-limiting fetal diagnosis, you do not have to walk this road alone. Visit AbelSpeaks.org to be connected to assistance near you. Texas has over a dozen perinatal palliative care providers ready and willing to offer comprehensive compassionate care to families facing the heartbreaking situation of a life-limiting diagnosis for their child.