A reader writes:
I know that you and many others do not approve of late-term abortions and those who perform them and I understand the reasons. However, there is one aspect of this moral dilemma which I have not seen addressed by you or the media: the fact that clinics like Dr. Tiller's can help SAVE the lives of unborn children. Here is my best friend's story...
My friend "Katie" is pro-choice, and her husband "Rob" (raised Catholic) always considered himself pro-life. They have two wonderful children, one of whom is a special needs child. With all of the complications of raising their autistic daughter they decided against having a third. But Mother Nature vetoed this decision and Katie became unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 39. Though unplanned, there was no question they would keep the child. So they initially decided against any invasive screening. However, due to her age and other factors, the doctors recommended extra testing. And sure enough, one of the tests came back with measurements that indicated chromosomal issues and/or heart deformities.
It was then that the reality of their situation sunk in. Rob started seriously thinking about what their situation might be if they had another child with even bigger medical issues and perhaps Down syndrome. So it was Rob who asked Katie whether they should get genetic testing. She agreed. In the meantime, Rob was experiencing ambivalence about the future and what the best choice might be. Time became a factor; Katie was starting to show and was bonding with the baby, whatever its condition. Rob, on the other hand, became more and more certain they couldn't handle another baby with severe health issues.
Katie and Rob started discussing the "what ifs". What if it had Down's - keep it or not? What if it didn't have Down's but major cardiac malformations - keep it or not? All this they had to think through in a short amount of time while they waited for the genetic test results. They still were in an "acceptable" window to terminate. Katie knew that if the fetus had any major issues, Rob wanted to abort. She, the "pro choice" one, was not so sure. Although the clock was ticking, they agreed to wait for the test results.
Finally, the genetic results were in. No Down's, but other signs still suggested major heart issues were likely. More specialists and testing to be done, but they would have to wait another few weeks, since the doctors had to see the heart performing on an ultrasound at a later stage of development.
It seemed like decision time. Rob wanted to terminate, Katie was unsure. They were in a bind -well into the second trimester at this point. Katie knew that if she waited any longer her OB/GYN would not be able to terminate. Katie was in anguish. I can't tell you how many times we talked that week about what to do. Katie was on the verge of siding with Rob and scheduling an abortion. She called up her OB about making an appointment. Instead, her doctor gave her another option which Katie thought was off the table: waiting until they knew for sure. If they still wanted to terminate, the OB knew a name of another doctor who would abort the child up until viability.
Although to Katie it seemed more ethical to terminate earlier rather than later, there was still a possibility that the fetus was generally okay. In her heart she knew she could live with a late abortion if the fetus would die eventually anyway, but she didn't know if she could live with the uncertainty of aborting a child which might have been healthy. So they agreed to wait.
After what seemed like a lifetime, they finally got the good news: a heart with no fatal malformations. It did have a minor defect, but it appeared operable without any long term complications. So they kept the pregnancy going. A few months later their daughter was born. After some surgery, she is now is a happy, healthy child.
Because Rob and Katie had the option of going to late-term abortionists like Tiller, they chose NOT to have an abortion. Without the ability to terminate after 18 weeks, they would have aborted much sooner, given the 90% chance of serious defects. But just knowing they had the option of waiting without limiting their choices allowed them to obtain the critical information. And that choice ended up saving their daughter.