"The Case For Legal Late-Term Abortions," by Jim Buie, Newsweek.com "Abortion wasn't an option for my parents, but raising my severely retarded brother nearly destroyed our family." It is sparking interesting comments.
I wrote the piece not so much to advocate for late-term abortion but because I think the public debate has lacked realism. Few people seem to understand the personal and societal price to be paid when choice -- even late-term choice -- is eliminated. In the United States, only Kansas allows doctors to abort fetuses after 20 weeks. If you believe late-term abortion should be illegal, then it seems to me you must also advocate for GENEROUS public resources for institutional care, and for adoption. The societal trend is just the opposite: institutional care, especially in times of tight state budgets, has been slashed (in some states, almost eliminated), and adoption can be quite expensive.
I was inspired to write this piece after reading a series of first-hand accounts of late-term abortion on Andrew Sullivan's blog. Kate Dailey of Newsweek's Human Condition Blog has a good round-up, "Andrew Sullivan's Brave and Brilliant Abortion Blogging," with links to some of the more moving posts. Sullivan, a Catholic, starts out by saying he cannot possibly support late-term abortion, but as he peruses his readers' stories -- pro and con -- his views evolve. He reports on a couple whose daughter at 18 weeks' gestation was diagnosed with devastating heart defects and less than a 20 percent chance of survival. She died three days after birth. Shouldn't this couple have had the right to consider abortion, a sister asks. He tells the story of a Catholic couple (and their priest) who watched their newborn infant suffer so much from surgery before she died that they concluded that earlier termination would have been far more humane.
Sullivan also links to a powerful collection of stories, "A Heartbreaking Choice," from parents who made the choice to end a much-wanted pregnancy due to severe or lethal birth defects. A number of them were under the care of the late Dr. George Tiller. It is impossible to read the stories and the testimonials about Dr. Tiller and not be touched and moved by them.
I was raised to believe that my brother's life had a positive impact far beyond his own tragic circumstances. I articulated those beliefs in my eulogy to him at his memorial service in 2002. His life was a testimonial, I said, "to the concept that we, none of us, in this life ever fully knows the impact we have on other people." Every life, even that of a severely retarded individual, makes more of a difference, I said, than we any of us realizes.
As the parent of an adopted son, I also know that there are thousands of couples yearning to be parents and waiting for years to adopt. So it makes little sense to me that millions of abortions are performed if many babies could easily be adopted. It's difficult for potential adoptive parents to read stories like this one, about a self-described "selfish and sick 21-year-old" whose actions in pressuring his girl friend to have an abortion may have prevented others from becoming the parents they wanted to be.
At the same time, it seems LISTENING, respecting personal experience and PERSUASION are far more effective tools in discussing abortion than dogmatic, legalistic and judgmental pronouncements. As Kate Dailey writes on her Newsweek blog, "we need more thinking and rethinking, more sharing of extraordinary accounts, and more discourse."
For readers interested in more details on my own family story, my sister, Ann Loomis, wrote a moving piece about her visit to our brother's institution, "Jon's Place." My mother, Lillian Secrest Buie, wrote several things about Jonjon, and her brother (my uncle) had some insightful things to say recently.
- "The Case For Legal Late-Term Abortions," by Jim Buie, Newsweek.com
- My eulogy to my brother at his memorial service in 2002
- My sister Ann's account of visiting our brother at the institution where he lived for most of his life. Jon's Place.
- 1955: Lil Buie's letter to her mother after speaking publicly for the first time about her experience as mother of a severely retarded child
- 1979: Lil Buie's journal entry. "Thankfully, the scars of Jonjon's babyhood have healed, but I could never forget..."
- My uncle, Mac Secrest, recently made some poignant observations about the family's situation, how they learned to cope and detach.
In addition, for people with an open mind on this issue, trying to rethink their own position, I recommend reading:
- The website, "A Heartbreaking Choice," stories from parents who made the choice to end a much-wanted pregnancy due to severe or lethal birth defects. Especially informative are stories from patients under the care of the late Kansas Dr. George Tiller.
- The Upside of Downs: Support, Education, Advocacy, Community
- "The Worth of Isaiah." Debbie Joslin of Women for Faith and Family describes how she was advised to consider abortion because her severely disabled child had no chance of living beyond a few days of birth. She chose to give birth anyway, believing that he would have a "death with dignity" in his parents' arms instead of a shot that wished him away.
- Newsweek's "Human Condition" blog: excerpts from Andrew Sullivan's Brave and Brilliant Abortion Blogging
- Patients Pay Tribute to a Murdered Doctor (NYTIMES)
Sullivan's collection of late-term abortion articles:
- It's So Personal
- It's So Personal, Ctd
- The Catholic Mother
- The Trauma
- A Doctor's View (reader reaction)
- A Target Of Terror
- The Regret
- Not Knowing For Sure
- When Principle Meets Reality
- Serial Abortions (reader reaction)
- Preparing For The Worst
- An Unforgiving Family (reader reaction)
- The Guilt
- Holding On
- The Gay Fathers
- What Guilt?
- Ectopic "Miscarriage"
- A Life Saved By Choice
- What Do You Mean, Viable?
- The Other Side Of The Abortion Experience