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.


mackeydoodle said...

Because of a ski holiday???!!!!! It must be so hard to bite your tongue at moments like that.

Motherkitty said...

My Darling Daughter and her Hairy Husband are the proud parents of two wonderful little girls. We couldn't be happier. Husband and I discovered, however, many years after the fact, that when Darling Daughter was still at the university and had a musician slacker boyfriend that she became pregnant and subsequently had an abortion. We were never told any of this until many years later or knew about the terrible guilt Darling Daughter was suffering from then and even now. Following graduation, Darling Daughter went to work at Life House on campus that offers religious-based counseling for those pregnant ladies who are considering termination. She continued with this work until she was ready to give birth to her first-born. When we were told about the termination, I not only cried, but also thought about the lost life of my first grandchild. To this day, we all mourn this loss. I have always, always been pro-abortion, but now believe that we women are responsible for our bodies under all circumstances. As you said, the only valid reasons for considering this drastic measure are for rape, threat to the mother or child, or if the child has special medical problems -- never ever for convenience. That's what the responsible use of birth control is all about. Thanks for the use of your soap box. And, thanks for your very kind words to me. I wish I could know you in person, but will be content to correspond with you in this manner. Your family is lucky to have you in their lives.

jellyhead said...

Thanks Mackeydoodle for joining in my outrage. Good to hear from you!

Motherkitty, thank you for sharing with me such a personal story. I was aware when writing that post that there might be readers who had themselves had an abortion, or had someone close to them go through an abortion, and I didn't wish to cause any further distress for those people, so I truly hope I haven't for you. I know that had I found myself pregnant earlier in my life, I may well have had a termination (it's really since maturing more & having children myself that I've thought it over more, and become more & more horrified with the concept). So please don't think I'm pretending to occupy some moral high ground here - I guess it's the more extreme cases (eg Mrs Ski Holiday) that I really get upset over.

I, too, would love to correspond with you. I showed your comment to my husband last night, and he read it, and said, " What lovely words". I wanted him to understand that it is such a thrill to exchange comments with intelligent, interesting people, perhaps from different countries, different walks of life, or different age groups...someone I would never have come to meet without blogging! I'm glad we've 'met'!

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jellyhead said...

Thanks Heather. I've been keeping up with your blog, too (in fact I wrote to you about your thought-provoking post about Bump's birthday party, but my comment seems to have disappeared! - it was under the blog comments section, which has also disappeared). It sounds like we think quite similarly - certainly about parenting, and now on this topic too. Thanks again for your feedback!

Heather said...

I got your comment--Thank you! I only had blogger comments enabled while Haloscan was jammed up. It was too confusing to have blogger comments and haloscan comments enabled!

Athenian Monk said...

I recently discoursed with a 20yo F at university in the US who destroyed her baby b/c she learned her boyfriend (of 5 mos duration) had 'cheated' on her and she didn't think he deserved a child! She opts not to use BC oral because it makes her skin break out. She leaves her diaphragm here and there often forgetting where. And she's run to the chemist half-dozen times for the Morning After. One might consider her rather cold about such things as intimacy and new life. Indeed, I was tempted to when I first heard her history, but that runs counter to my life as spiritual healing guide (for lack of a better term). The truth was in her eyes. Behind the veil of crystalline tear drops was a frightened child; and part of that child was biological goo long since decomposed in some chemical bath. In all of her vituperative squawks and clamourings was the image of myself without the love and support of people I trust. Thank you, JH, for sharing. // I am having a metal roof pressed on o'er the top of my shingle roof this autumn (Ohio, U.S.) and can't wait for the first rains to dance on the surface! 'possums be damned. :)