The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: February 2, 2007
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
February 11th— the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes— is also the 15th World Day of the Sick. In his message for this special day, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Once again the Church turns her eyes to those who suffer and calls attention to the incurably ill, many of whom are dying from terminal diseases.” The Holy Father continues, “I would like to encourage the efforts of those who work daily to ensure that the incurably and terminally ill, together with their families, receive adequate and loving care.”
After reading the Holy Father’s message, my thoughts turned to the pre-born children who have been diagnosed with lethal fetal conditions. Will these children “receive adequate and loving care” in utero or will they be rejected because they are expected to die before or shortly after birth?
It is estimated between 80 to 90% of all babies believed to have lethal conditions are aborted—some by “early induction” where labor is induced and the premature infant is delivered. Many parents are deceived into thinking this is not an abortion, but as the National Catholic Bioethics Center explains, “induction of labor before term performed simply for the reason that the child has a lethal anomaly is direct abortion.”
Rather than offering support and loving care, many in the medical profession, either directly or tacitly, send the message that abortion is best for the baby and the family. In reality, hastening the baby’s death has no benefit for him or her and ultimately not for the family.
Physicians at the Tepeyac Family Center in Virginia acknowledge this as they write, “Some think that we can control death by terminating the pregnancy, the aborting of the life is an attempt to eliminate the suffering. We have found that the exact opposite to be true. The suffering remains.”
Studies have shown that parents often experience even more suffering if they decide to abort their babies who have fatal conditions. Because of their deliberate decision, they believe they have no one with whom to discuss their feelings of grief. Many tell friends and family that they miscarried, so when the additional grief hits them, they feel they have nowhere to turn. To suffering parents who chose abortion, I pray you will follow the words of John Paul II: “If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
For those who are facing a difficult pre-natal diagnosis or may know someone who is, please know there are loving alternatives to abortion. A number of web sites offer information and support. Benotafraid.net is “an online outreach to parents who have received a poor or difficult prenatal diagnosis. The family stories, articles, and links within this site are presented as a resource for those who may have been asked to choose between terminating a pregnancy or continuing on despite the diagnosis. The benotafraid.net families faced the same decision and chose not to terminate. By sharing our experiences, we hope to offer encouragement to those who may be afraid to continue on.”
Among the numerous resources listed on benotafraid.net is The Haven Network—a peri-natal hospice located in Rockford, Illinois. One of The Haven’s programs “provides emotional, spiritual and practical support, including meal delivery, layettes and burial gowns, and memory boxes through trained volunteers . . . Family Partner volunteers receive specialized education that assists them to journey with their assigned family for one year and will extend that support through subsequent pregnancies if desired.”
I am privileged to serve as an advisor for this wonderful organization and I encourage anyone facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis to contact The Haven at 815.962.1512 or visit their website at thehavennetwork.org.
Families do not have to face the difficulty of a lethal pre-natal diagnosis alone. There are Good Samaritans who will provide more than “adequate and loving care.”