moralizing pregnancy, abortion & premature babies

I wrote this post a little while ago, but held off sharing it until now. Since writing it, a woman in Ireland has died because she was denied an abortion. Why? Ireland is “a Catholic country.” A commenter at Feministing summed it up nicely:

Pregnancy is not religious phenomenon. It is not a moral idea. It is a biological event, and one that comes with many, well-known, well-documented risks. You cannot moralize biology. Morality is for human action, not processes that are beyond our individual control, like my ectopic pregnancy, or a dying fetus that, for whatever reason, does not miscarry properly,or for a fetus that will not survive after birth and will only know agony in its short moments or few days of life. Nor is such moralizing appropriate for social and personal circumstances that an individual cannot overcome by their own choices alone, like a woman who has been disadvantaged all her life and cannot have another child without being forced into even deeper poverty, or a woman who struggles with depression and cannot cope with a pregnancy or caring for a new child, or a woman who has to flee an abusive partner whose behavior she cannot change. The only place morality has in these equations is what *we* can do for the woman. Help her or don’t help her. And the morally right answer to that is a no-brainers for any clear-thinking individual…. You don’t play bullshit morality games around the option for the woman to choose to end such pregnancy. That’s not just and that’s not merciful. You make damn sure that option is available to her, so she may be spared the worse of such unfortunate circumstance.         (emphasis mine)

Pretty much.


I strongly feel a woman should have a wide range of options when it comes to family planning issues. No woman should be forced/coerced to carry a pregnancy to term (or death, or spontaneous premature labor, or an induction), and no woman should be forced/coerced to terminate one against her will.

Then there are situations like this one (made extra sensationalist by the Daily Mail): The miracle baby who will never walk, speak or read, born after family refused to terminate pregnancy despite three per cent survival rate

The overwhelming religious “logic” is what struck me the most:

‘God has designed Pearl the way he wanted, for his glory and our good,’ he added.
The couple are members of The Village Chapel in Hillsboro Village, a nondenominational church.

This couple is in a no-win situation, had they terminated, they would have been labeled “selfish” by their ultra-religious peers for not wanting to “deal” with the “burden” of a seriously disabled child, instead they have a seriously disabled child who may not last the year, mounting medical bills, and two other children to take care of on top of it. Instead, cynics will label them “selfish” for bringing such a life into the world: a feeding tube, daily seizures, a seriously compromised immune system, an undeveloped brain, and like-minded individuals will praise them for being compassionate and taking the hard road but “doing the right thing.”

The situation breaks my heart.

Having a child in the NICU is incredibly tough even if the child is “healthy, just a little under weight” the strain is often overwhelming. I can not begin to imagine what it would be like to deal with a seriously ill infant in addition to two healthy ones.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I don’t think “God” had anything to do with it. This may be in part because I don’t believe in “God” but also because if I did, I’d like to think that “God” isn’t an asshole who was “testing” my faith, straining my family, causing mounting medical bills, and causing a premature infant to endure multiple complex medical procedures to stay alive for a few more moments.

I feel sorry for the children, for Baby Pearl and her extensive medical needs and her older siblings who will most likely be left to the care of well-meaning family and friends while their parents deal with the ultra-high-needs baby. The parents had a choice, the children did not.

On one hand we have been given the technology to detect early fetal abnormalities, on the other, in some cases, we also have the technology to allow people born with such abnormalities a chance at a more “normal” life. Ethicists have been debating this one for years: quality of life, quantity of life, it is not a debate I wish to wade into.

Stories like these touch on a number of dangerous issues: eugenics, selective breeding, assisted suicide, who gets to decide who is “worthy” of living, of reproducing, of controlling women’s bodies/reproductive capabilities, of becoming a member of society? I don’t know if what they did was the right thing. I’m sure in a few months the DM will have a follow up article about either the continued life, or early death of Baby Pearl.

I’m going to go cry now.


3 thoughts on “moralizing pregnancy, abortion & premature babies

  1. Karen Molenaar Terrell says:

    I think you put it all really well, kindism.

    I am pro-choice. I’ve always been pro-choice. I am not pro-abortion – but, who is really? Personally, I don’t think I would ever choose to have one – but then, I’ve never had an unwanted pregnancy or been in a position where I had to make a decision about having one. When I was pregnant with each of my sons I saw the ultrasounds of their little hearts, saw their little hands and feet moving, saw the youngest one sucking on his umbilical cord – and those babies on the screen were very real and precious to me – even when all there was to see were their little beating hearts. I can understand the emotions the anti-choice people have about this issue. I can relate to those emotions.

    But, having said that, I also know both my pregnancies were desired, that the pregnancies were not troublesome to my healthy peasant stock self, and both my sons were seen to be thriving, healthy, and whole in the womb. To force a woman to go through a pregnancy that will cause risk to her health or … well, you know what? To force a woman to go through a pregnancy – no matter what her situation – is not my choice to make. It just isn’t. In my mind, it’s like looking at women as breeding machines, as objects, without any thought to their feelings and needs – and it’s just wrong.

    Maybe there should be some kind of boundary established – some kind of limit about aborting a viable fetus… I don’t know… but I’d hate to see our country go back to that time in history when women were risking their lives to get abortions in back alleys.

    • kindism says:

      Honestly, I started out very pro-life (I was raised in the south), and then I had my first kid, and now I am incredibly pro-choice.

      Maybe there should be some kind of boundary established – some kind of limit about aborting a viable fetus…

      Guttermacher has more info:, but generally 20-24 weeks/3d trimester is where it becomes illegal and a gray area because “modern science” can assist micro-preemies (usually born before 26 weeks with varying levels of success).

      The problem comes when people view the life of the fetus as more important than the life of the mother which was something my husband and I talked about at length before we had Kid2. After my experience with Kid1(an emergency induction followed by an urgent c-section at 35 weeks), and another friend’s loss at 32 weeks from diabetes complications, I wasn’t sure I wanted to potentially risk my life again for a second child, did Kid1 need a sibling or a mother? In the end we decided to have Kid2 (and work with a top high-risk pregnancy specialist, thankfully nothing went wrong the second time).

      I didn’t like being pregnant either time, it felt like I’d been invaded and suddenly everyone seemed to think it was their right to put their hands all over my body. Strangers asked the most invasive questions, speculated over the gender, rubbed my stomach, I was simultaneously more and less of a person: I was this amazing symbol of fertility and womanhood and babymakingawesomeness and everyone felt it was their right to interject their opinion about it. All anyone noticed was the huge pregnant stomach, all anyone wanted to talk about was the pregnancy (or their own pregnancy story, although I usually had them beat in the horror department which usually shut them up pretty quickly).

      I think the choice to have an abortion or not should be up to the woman who is pregnant. There should be some guidelines, and a recommended not-later-than-date ( Abortions 20 weeks are rare anyway (6.2%) and I can’t imagine it is an easy decision for the woman to make at any stage. In the end we need to be doing what is best for the women and their situations, and sadly, I feel that has gotten lost in the blustering about God’s will. :/

  2. Karen Molenaar Terrell says:

    “…and sadly, I feel that has gotten lost in the blustering about God will.”
    Man, I am in agreement with you on this one!

    (And I’m so sorry your experience with pregnancy was so rotten, kindism. From what I know about you through your posts I think your kids (both 1 and 2) are really blest to have you for their mum, though.)

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