the other day i read an article entitled "A Place to Turn When a Baby is Fated to Die" describing a small but growing number of neonatal hospices. their purpose is to support families through the practical and spiritual questions that arise when heartbreaking news about the baby is received. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/health/13hospice.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print
i recognized immediately that the language we use in our clinic is at times identical to the language used in the neonatal hospices. in fact, there is much about abortion providers that comes from the same place in the heart of women and families. not all families whose baby is diagnosed with a fatal condition choose to continue the pregnancy. but for those who do, options are now available to aid "perinatal bereavement". personal or religious rituals are being created that acknowledge the grief that these families feel. by the same token, some women and families who choose abortion also feel grief and benefit from support and acknowledgement. but one approach will not suit all.
and just as some folks are strongly opposed to abortion, so are some adamantly opposed to neonatal hospices, calling them a waste of doctors' time, a squandering of resources and money. they question a decision that puts other family members through weeks, sometimes months of suffering, before inevitable infant death. however, the strongest branch of this new movement allows familes to decide for themselves which course of action to take, advocating neither continuing the pregnancy nor abortion. as such, they are truly pro-choice; that is, they encourage the families to choose how the familiies themselves want to deal with the pregnancy and provide support no matter what the choice is. abortion providers, despite what some may believe, do exactly the same thing. appreciating the grief that accompanies some women's and men's choices, abortion providers respect whatever choice is made. in addition, support materials and referrals including religious rituals are often on site.
it is my hope that the complexities of pregnancy, abortion, and parenting will someday be seen for what they truly are, all part of the same issue. often a woman comes to my clinic for an abortion still shocked to see herself there. it is not uncommon to hear women say that they always thought that abortion is something that others choose, not them. just a few days ago, a mother of three who said from the time she first became pregnant at seventeen until just now, almost twenty years later, abortion was never a consideration. so, she asked me, how is it that she and her husband decided that, with her having lost her job and other family issues, that this pregnancy just cannot continue? she wondered which person is she, or is she a hypocrit? how was it that she, of all people, was having an abortion? i told her she was like most women who have an abortion. most of them have children too. but the time can come when she, or they, need to say not this pregnancy at this point of my life. this pregnancy does not have any bearing on any other pregnancy before this one or after this one. a woman can decide only at the moment, just as the families who are given the tragic news that their unborn child is not going to make it, and they too have to decide how to best deal with the feelings that ensue.