A week ago Warren asked me if I’d be sad on the due date for this one the way I was on the due date to the one I miscarried over the summer if the amnio results are not good and we end up terminating the pregnancy. I didn’t have to think about it, I told him yes, that to my mind there really wasn’t any difference between a therapeutic termination and a miscarriage. Of course I’ve never had a therapeutic termination, but I’ve certainly thought about it. At my age, and with my history I’d be a fool not to.
I know this is a controversial topic, but my opinion and my feeling runs thusly: a pregnancy that is terminated due to severe medical problems with the fetus is not really terminated by choice. Yes, a woman who is pregnant with a baby that has trisomy 18 can choose to allow the pregnancy to run its course, but considering that such children have at best a 10% chance of surviving their first year if they even make it to birth, that’s really the choice of the fetus dies now or the baby dies (probably more painfully) later. In short, in so much as there is any choice involved it is a rather unpleasant one either way. Then there is the most survivable autosomal trisomy, trisomy 21, more commonly known as Downs Syndrome. I have stated before that I will terminate a pregnancy where trisomy 21 is detected and my opinion has not changed. I know people with Downs can live quite long these days, but it is more than just mental retardation. There are common heart defects, gastrointestinal complications, and a very high and increasing risk of obesity. I will never knowingly doom a child of mine to living with such a severe set of disabilities, and I cannot in good conscience inflict such a severely disabled sibling on my existing children if I have a choice. While the law says that we have a choice as to whether or not to terminate a pregnancy if the fetus has trisomy 21, trisomy 18 or trisomy 13, to my mind there is really only one path that is right for me and my family, and I would consider such a termination a bitter necessity.
Not everyone feels as I do. While I feel that the only path for my family if faced with a fetus with an autosomal aneuploidy is terminating the pregnancy, other families choose differently. Some have deeply held religious views on the matter and others do not. I have no major problems with this (though I may grumble a tad about increased insurance premiums caused by the cost of caring for these babies); what is right for my family is not necessarily the best choice for someone else’s family. What really gets under my skin and tempts me to type blog entries laced with phrases like “fucking moron” is when people seek to impede my ability to do what is right and necessary for my family or to equate therapeutic terminations to other abortions.
Most of you will remember a couple of weeks back there was a lot of noise in the media about health insurance and coverage of birth control, etc. During all that coverage I heard a brief clip stating that Rick Santorum opposes insurance coverage for pre-natal testing because it “leads to more abortions”. For a while I tried to compose a rational and well-reasoned post on the subject, but I just couldn’t because every entry I started strayed into ‘fucking moron’ territory after about a paragraph and a half. Rick Santorum objects to the fact that my insurance covers the amnio I’m going to have a week from Friday precisely because unlike him I would choose to terminate a pregnancy if the fetus had trisomy 18. In short, he wants to force me into the same choices he would make. In my opinion it is not the testing that causes the abortions, but the conditions they test for, conditions that in many cases are actually acute enough to be incompatible with life outside the womb. I really, really want to have the child I am carrying now, but thank goodness my insurance does cover the amnio, and thank goodness I will have medical recourse if I get bad news.
Lastly, there is a huge difference between a therapeutic termination and an abortion prompted by personal reasons, at least in my opinion. That’s why I don’t call the former an abortion, though I’m not going to argue to strongly about the semantics one way or the other. This post isn’t about the wider abortion debate, just the special case where you find yourself forced to face terminating a desperately wanted pregnancy because of serious medical issues. It’s something I’m desperately hoping I won’t have to face in any more than a theoretical form.