By Cassy Fiano-Chesser
A new campaign ad for the Biden administration features a Texas obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) making the now-familiar claim that she was denied a medically-necessary abortion because her pregnancy with a child with a “fatal condition” put her own “life at risk.” But is this true? But did she actually need to have her preborn child with a disability intentionally killed?
In the ad, Dr. Austin Dennard is featured. Dennard is an OB/GYN practicing in Dallas, and is the married mother of three living children, and called her family the joy of her life. “I never thought that I would need an abortion for a planned pregnancy,” she said. “But I did. Two years ago, I became pregnant with a baby I desperately wanted.”
“At a routine ultrasound, I learned that the fetus would have a fatal condition, and that there was absolutely no chance of survival,” she continued. “In Texas, you are forced to carry that pregnancy, and that is because of Donald Trump overturning Roe v. Wade. The choice was completely taken away. I was to continue my pregnancy, putting my life at risk. It’s every woman’s worst nightmare, and it was absolutely unbearable.”
While it should be obvious to anyone aware of the American system of government, it was the United States Supreme Court, not former president Donald Trump, that overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision issued in June 2022, allowing each state to regulate its own abortion law. Read more here on the reasons why a majority of the Court chose to overturn Roe, which they called “egregiously wrong from the start.”
DID DENNARD NEED AN ABORTION?
Dennard argued in her Biden campaign ad that her life was at risk; however, carrying a child with a disability (like anencephaly, which was the diagnosis in this case) does not put the mother at risk any more than carrying an able-bodied child does.
Anencephaly is a condition in which the skull doesn’t properly form, causing the brain to be exposed to amniotic fluids and therefore, become underdeveloped. Many children with anencephaly die within hours or weeks after birth; some children, however, defy the odds and survive — even for years.
Though many have argued that it is necessary to intentionally kill a preborn child after a diagnosis of anencephaly to prevent the baby from experiencing pain, Cleveland Clinic states that newborns with anencephaly do not have the ability to feel pain.
Dennard is one of several women suing the state of Texas over the state’s laws protecting preborn children from abortion; in her court documents, Dennard explained she was particularly excited about this pregnancy because she had previously suffered a miscarriage.
She also disclosed that she had undergone an abortion in her first pregnancy, after that baby was also prenatally diagnosed with disabilities — which indicates that her statement in the ad of never expecting to have an abortion was disingenuous. According to CNN, Dennard sought that prior abortion due to a diagnosis of Noonan syndrome. Though people with Noonan syndrome do have disabilities, it is not a life-threatening disease.
Dennard testified [www.instagram.com/p/C2OJD30Nc39] at an abortion hearing in front of Senate Democrats, where she complained of “forced pregnancy… forced delivery.” She further added that she would have been “[f]orced to watch him die, either in my womb, or in my arms.” She then said that Texas laws made her scared to use her credit card or tell people where she was going (out of state to get an abortion) even though Texas has no laws preventing anyone from traveling outside of the state for an abortion.
Dennard continued on by saying that she was not willing to bear the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term for a baby with little chance of survival. “They essentially just gasp for air until they pass away,” Dennard said of babies with anencephaly in her Senate testimony.
Her speaking of not wanting to watch her baby die also is a key indicator of her mindset. It was obviously not necessary to hurry up and kill a child who was unlikely to survive; instead, the abortion was desired and elective, and it is clear from her statements that Dennard chose it to avoid experiencing her newborn’s death firsthand. Actively killing a one-year-old diagnosed with terminal cancer because you didn’t want to watch your child slowly pass away would be considered unacceptable; yet somehow, when the baby is preborn, that comparable scenario of actively killing one’s own child becomes acceptable.
While seeing your child die is, without a doubt, unspeakably traumatic and heartbreaking, playing a part in actively killing your own child is certainly not without significant trauma. Numerous studies have found that women who choose to kill a child by abortion following a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting disability or birth defect have a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional anguish than women who carry their babies to term after such a diagnosis.
In Dennard’s court documents, as well as follow-up press photos and the campaign ad where she proudly poses with a baby, it is clear that she was able to get her “much wanted” third (born) child at last… one whom she found acceptable enough to let live.
According to CNN, Dennard also stated that she believes “everyone’s reason for needing an abortion is valid” and, in fact, knew her life was not at risk due to her child’s disability, despite her claim in the Biden campaign ad. “I was not critically ill,” she said. “I was not hemorrhaging, I was not septic.”
Tragically, Dennard never even humanized the second child she chose to abort, telling CNN, “I was pregnant with a lethal anomaly, and I did not believe that I would be able to receive an abortion in my state at that time for the sole purpose of my lethal anomaly” (emphasis added).
Dennard also stated at a briefing, “the pregnancy was not going to become a brother or sister for my children.” In reality, the child (not “the pregnancy” and not the “lethal anomaly”) in her womb was indeed the biological sibling of her children. Nothing will change that fact. Her children now have two deceased siblings who once lived in their mother’s womb as they did.
A BETTER ALTERNATIVE
Joe Baker, founder of Save the Storks, and his wife Ann were thrilled to be expecting their first daughter, and were crushed to find out she, too, had anencephaly. Their little girl, whom they named Ember, was given a prognosis of just one week to live after birth. They were repeatedly urged to end her life by abortion, but refused – and instead, decided to embrace the little time they did have with her, embarking on what they called the “Ember Tour.”
“Ann brought this map to me, and she said, ‘I want to take Ember to all of these places,’” Baker previously told Live Action News. “And I’m like, ‘Ann, I don’t even think she’s going to be discharged from the hospital,’ and she’s like, ‘No, Joe. We’re going to all these places between now and November.’ Through that process, of climbing mountains with my pregnant wife, and our little unborn baby, just talking about her and praying for her all the time, she’s really come alive in our family.”
They also received mountains of artwork to decorate their hospital room for the day of Ember’s birth, to make it as colorful and beautiful as possible. And Baker explained that the support they received helped them through the difficult time.
“The beautiful part of the story is, when you carry a child like this, the overwhelming support and encouragement,” he said. “I compare that to someone who would choose to abort one of these children — it becomes their secret. It’s like they miss out on all of the experiences of getting to know their daughter like the way we have, and they miss out on all of that unbelievable support that would come their way….”
Ember eventually was born, and lived for one hour after birth. “We loved her well, and it was life-changing for our whole family,” Baker told Live Action News. “It’s just amazing to see this little baby. She was very peaceful, and it was just precious, just that little bit of time. She just felt loved.”
And though it was, of course, a heartbreaking time, it was also an hour that Ember — who was named and loved, and not dehumanized in an effort to lessen the pain of her loss — got to experience of a life filled with love and warmth.
“It was like, we’re going to take the time with our baby, and not put her on any machines or anything, and comfort her, and hold her,” Baker said. “She lived an hour and six minutes outside the womb, and over eight months inside the womb… our family is going to be feeling like there’s a hole in our family from now on.”
Ultimately, the idea that a mother would use the elective choice to kill her own disabled children in the womb to make the killing of all preborn children legal is a tragedy.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action News and reposted with permission.