It was clearly a baby on the screen. I could see its little arms wave and all of the fingers on his little hands. I watched his legs kick and his heart beat as I moved the ultrasound probe across the mother’s abdomen, gathering the measurements that would allow me to determine the stage of the pregnancy. As I did the machine’s built in calculator displayed the results on the screen- 23 weeks. Fully developed and just 2 weeks away from the age at which life outside of the womb was possible! As I always was I was awestruck at the miracle of life.
The mother wasn’t. She wanted the baby gone, dead, out of her body.
To this woman the image on the screen was not a baby, was not a life. It was a problem that needed to be disposed of. I tried to engage her in conversation, tried to get her to discuss options other than termination but she dismissed me with a wave of her hand. She wanted an abortion.
Within minutes the woman was gone. Within days, so was the baby.
There was nothing wrong with the baby, no medical condition that would have made it difficult to raise or care for. There was no diagnosis or problem that put the mother at risk, no medical reason that she could not have continued to term and given the child to a loving family. She simply did not want to be pregnant and in our society that was, and is, enough.
She went to the local doctor in town who served as the late term abortionist. He was happy to take care of her and perform the service. He is an enigma to me, a man with a passion for raising orchids who boasts of traveling the world to save rare species of flowers. He saves flowers but he has no qualms about ending the life of an unborn child just days away from viability outside the womb. The "service" he provided is one he has provided for many other women.
This woman’s story and her reason for terminating the life of her unborn child are not uncommon. Over the years I have encountered a number of women who wanted to similarly terminate a pregnancy. Like her, in the vast majority of cases the motivation was selfish and shallow. One woman who was particularly vain told me, “I will be due in August? There is no way I want to be fat during bikini season!” She was absolutely serious and she absolutely had an abortion to maintain her beach season figure.
I realize that there are times when woman face what seem to be incredibly difficult decisions, who feel as if they are being forced to choose between terrible options. I am not addressing them with this post as they are truly the rarer cases. For many women abortion is just another form of birth control and as such reveals a frightening reality about the world in which we live. When selfishness and convenience become dominant values, when things and circumstances matter more than life itself, we all suffer.
This is evident in our inner cities. Abortion rates for women in one demographic are 5 times that of the lowest measured, a second demographic has abortion rates double that of the lowest. That this reflects a devaluation of life is evident by the murder rates for the various groups. Murder rates for demographic A are 18 times higher than that of the lowest, for demographic B the rate is almost 5 times higher. This is not a coincidence. When some lives don’t matter at all, all life decreases in value.
We need to reframe the issue. When discussing choice we need to remind others of what the choice is. There is more than one body involved. The choice is a decision about life and about which lives matter and when they do. The answer is simple. All lives matter, even the earliest and youngest ones.
To those who think I may have been heavy handed in this post I offer this explanation. I am the father of a wonderful young woman whose birth mother nearly terminated her life out of convenience 20 years ago. The woman missed the appointment that would have led to my daughter’s life ending. For us, this issue is deeply personal.