Human Rights

Do fetal abnormality diagnoses justify later-term abortions? Some think so

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Last week’s shocking story of a mom who paid $25,000 to kill her 8-month-old disabled preborn baby is, perhaps, one of the most extreme cases of a late-term abortion justification, but it’s not the only one, as a controversy in Texas shows.

The Dallas Morning News reports this week on Nicole Stewart, who is angry that a Texas legislator is trying to pass a ban on abortions past the 20-week mark. She says her abortion at 22 weeks was necessary. The News reports;

“Stewart and her husband were excited to visit their doctor in 2013 to learn that the baby they were expecting was a boy. But they left with a grave prognosis: Routine skull measurements were troubling, and it appeared part of the baby’s brain never developed.

“After more tests, visits to specialists and more consultations, the couple was told the baby they had affectionately nicknamed ‘Tutu’ probably wouldn’t survive the pregnancy, and if he did, the chances of his living for more than a year were slim.”

Stewart and her husband aborted Tutu at 22 weeks. She says that a law forbidding the abortion would be an insult to her family because “for someone else to dictate the terms of our grief … we both were devastated,” she told the paper.

But the legislator who proposed the bill, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) says it’s about protecting life:

“This is about protecting babies with disabilities from late-term abortion. It doesn’t matter if you’re healthy by our standards. … Your life is valuable to God, and we want to protect that life.”

On his Facebook page, Schaefer posted a story about the bill, saying as a preface:

“Fetal abnormalities should not justify taking the life of unborn babies. Unfortunately, Texas law allows that. Today we tried to end the practice of aborting babies with disabilities.”

His comments were met with fury from readers, who called him everything from “misogynistic” to “sick” to “the Bible whisperer,” as well as uttering a host of other insults and accusations.

While the bill is still in a flux in the state legislature, the issues are clear on both sides: those for and against a 20-week abortion ban say their justification is to end suffering.

The Dallas Morning News discusses the battle between Stewart and Schaefer’s bill:

“Schaefer, who supported the 20-week ban in 2013, said his vote was based in part on the idea that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development. Now, he says, even if the fetus suffers, it’s better to honor life than end it.

“Pain and suffering, living and dying is part of the human condition,” he said.

“Stewart said that for her, protecting her son from pain was paramount.

“’The decision that we made was not for us,’ Stewart said. ‘It was about him. Every single day that I carried that child after knowing how unhealthy he was was heartbreaking for me.’”

The argument lies in the fact that fetal abnormalities and disabilities are often diagnosed later in pregnancy. OB/GYN Daniel Grossman says, “The test to detect genetic and chromosomal abnormalities is usually performed at about 15 or 16 weeks of pregnancy, but it isn’t a catchall.”

He adds: “physical malformations caused by different factors aren’t likely to be detected until 18 weeks or later.”

The implication is that since a parent may not discover defects until halfway through fetal development, it is somehow wrong to prevent them from killing the baby at that point.

Stewart’s argument is that Tutu was wanted and loved, but then he was diagnosed with abnormalities, so they chose abortion. She said she felt at peace after the abortion “because he was at peace.”

However, arguments in favor of 20-week abortion bans are generally centered around fetal pain—that is, proponents of these bans argue that the reason to ban abortions past 20-weeks is that the preborn baby is capable of feeling the pain that he or she is subjected to during an abortion.

While some medical experts argue when a preborn baby can feel pain (some say it’s at 20 weeks, while studies suggest it’s not until 26 or 28 weeks), without question, a baby the age of Rose— aborted at 8 months— can definitely feel pain. Tragically, Stewart asserts that baby Tutu actually will be spared from pain.

Such reasoning may be clinically comforting, but at what point can we take genuine comfort, knowing our decision to end a baby’s life may not have hurt the child in the process? Too much evidence exists that Tutu also felt pain.

While all pro-lifers agree abortion kills a child, some abortion advocates even believe that abortion past a certain point of gestation hurts preborn children. The trend toward justifying late-term abortions is disturbing; likewise, so is the media heroically reporting on the women who have made this decision.

A culture of convenience endorses ending a life we don’t want.

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