Tuesday, October 25, 2005
the sanctity of life
Hmmm.. I'm wondering even before I start this post whether I may be howled down as being anti-feminist or maybe even called small-minded. Never mind, I have broad shoulders.
One issue I struggle with a little as a doctor is that of abortion (or 'termination', as it is so politely referred to these days). Now before anyone gets too upset with me, I understand that there are circumstances where it may be the best possible choice - for example when a woman or girl is raped, or if the mother is extremely ill, or if the baby is diagnosed with a disorder that is definitely not compatible with life. Some would disagree even under these circumstances. Some would extend these categories - say, to include disorders where the baby would have what we would judge to be a poor quality of life. I don't necessarily know precisely what my view is, but I'm not totally anti-abortion
The times when I find it very hard to remain impartial, supportive and non-judgemental are when young married women come to see me, pregnant, saying, "It's not the right time for us now", or, "We haven't paid off the house yet" or, "I was going to lose a few kilos then try next year". I mean, a young girl still at school or university, or a single mother with 4 kids already...these are circumstances where at least I can understand the decision, and feel that if it is their best and carefully-considered decision, then I must respect the choice (after all, it's not me who will have to deal with the baby, and I don't have to walk in their shoes). But sometimes the reasons I am given for the planned termination are, in my opinion, so shallow and cold. The worst example I can recall was a young solicitor, married, who asked to be referred for a termination because she and her husband had a ski holiday lined up in 2 months' time. She hadn't planned to attempt to conceive for another 4 months. The baby developing inside her was just not going to be convenient, evidently. So what did I do? I did what I always try to do - allowed her to explore all her feelings with me, discussed the range of options available to her, then discussed some possible pros and cons of termination (emotional effects included there). But what I wanted to do was say, " Don't you realise you are destroying what would be your child, if you let it grow? Can you not see that you can never go back and have this particular child again?" AAAARGH... it is heart-wrenching.
Sometimes there are happier stories, though. Another mother I saw recently, who had 2 children already, came to see me with an unplanned pregnancy. She was really thinking she wanted to have a termination, but she wasn't absolutely sure. There were some financial considerations, though she knew they'd manage. It was mainly the thought of coping with another child. I let her talk, we did some problem-solving about some of the concerns she had. I discussed the risk of postnatal depression if she went ahead with the pregnancy just to keep her husband/mother/friend happy, but I also discussed how many women can also suffer feelings of loss and guilt after a termination - even when the decision is clear for them at the time. I know this woman had her life planned a certain way, and this 3rd child was throwing her off balance. But this lady took some time, talked with her husband, adjusted her plans, and now these plans include a 3rd child to complete her family. I can't wait to meet this baby!
I might just go hug my 2 kids. They are infinitely precious.