I got into a mini-discussion on Facebook about Obama and full-term abortions and thought this might be a great (if volatile) discussion. It certainly is longer than a commentary in Facebook.
As some background, I am rabidly pro-choice. I used to work at Planned Parenthood and counseled women regarding their THREE options for their pregnancies – keeping the baby, adoption and abortion. I listened to some horrible stories of abuse, rape (by spouses, mostly), poverty and being extremely young (counseled girls as young as 12 and the youngest girl I doula’d was 11 years old). Not all of the women chose abortion, but all thought of it. Blessedly, they were able to choose from ALL of their options.
Some of the saddest stories came from the anti-choice women who found themselves pregnant and didn’t want to be. Listening to their inner struggles – on the one hand, picketing against abortion, shouting “That’s a live baby you’re carrying inside! Don’t kill it!!” versus finding themselves inside The Enemy’s camp, asking/begging for something they (supposedly) don’t believe in. It was really hard to cope with the hypocrisy, but they were treated and cared for just as anyone else. The most difficult of all was seeing that same woman, two days later, out picketing once again. Apparently, abortion should be illegal… except for her.
I know that some might think it is oxymoronic to be a pro-choice midwife, but for me, it makes perfect sense. I comprehend, first hand, the preciousness of a baby – and have seen the devastation an unwanted child can bring. Seeing children abused, some beyond recognition, changes one forever.
I’ve doula’d for women having abortions – friends and strangers. I’ve been with family members as they have terminated their pregnancies. The process isn’t the most pleasant, but it doesn’t gross me out. The decision is NEVER an easy one; I’ve never heard a woman flippantly choose to terminate a pregnancy.
I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, but I do want to address the Obama and “partial-birth” (late-term) abortion issue. It seems to have transformed into an infanticide discussion, so I’ll address that, too.
First, watch this video.
The “baby” in this video was 21-22 weeks.
This from the BMJ says:
While the birth of a baby more than 12 weeks early poses many dilemmas, the threshold of viability has certainly been pushed back by the advent of respiratory support. Recent North American guidelines have suggested that survival occurs at 22 weeks, but Win Tin et al for the Northern Neonatal Network found no evidence for this in any white community and identified only eight survivors among the 197 babies of 23 weeks' gestation who were alive at the start of labour in their own study (half of whom had severe disability at 2 years). A 60% increase in survival in babies of under 28 weeks over the 12 years of the study had not been accompanied by any change in the proportion with disability, with 10% never likely to achieve mobility or communicate intelligibly. Recent developments have improved the outlook for the viable baby but have not changed the threshold of viability.
This comment from an L&D Nurse says in part:
…more common way to talk about viability is in terms of when the baby can live outside the womb. There have been a few babies born as early as 21-22 weeks, but most neonatologists call either 23-24 weeks viable, and most of the time if birth were to happen before then they would not use any measures to save the baby because mortality rates are far too high and rates of permanent disabilities are also far too high if they do survive
It is sad the nurse in the video saw or put the fetuses in the dirty laundry room (if in fact that really did happen at all), but I have to say, in my experiences with NICU nurses and NICUs in general, this has to be so rare; she seems to be the only nurse quoted publicly. She says other hospitals have done this, but it isn’t anything I know or could find real proof of occurring. Granted, I am not an NICU nurse nor have I worked in a number of NICUs (or even one), but I have asked around and haven’t heard of anything like this. The fetuses (or babies, if you want me to use that term) are so tiny and so un-formed (especially on their insides, including their brains), the likelihood of their even taking one breathing gesture is minute. This nurse made it sound like what she witnessed happened during every shift!
The other mis-representation comes in other similar YouTube videos. Several of them showed full-term (6 week old!) babies, wrapped in towels or blankets, left on tables in dark rooms… no adult around, seemingly left to fall off the table and/or starve to death. THIS IS NOT SO! As the nurse said in the above video, the baby barely moved and she couldn’t even tell if he was alive or dead except looking through the baby’s transparent skin (!). A few lessons in fetal development are in order for those that believe this erroneous information.
As is typical of this argument/discussion, semantics/definitions can be the stumbling blocks between any two trying to get the other to hear what they are saying. Pro-choice/Anti-Abortion - Pro-life/Pro-Abortion -it all gets jumbled in the humanity of it all.
An anti-choice person can use the term “partial-birth abortion” and “infanticide” as much as they want, but I (and apparently Obama!) see things differently.
Originally, the poster on Facebook said that Obama believed in full-term abortion. I never found any truth in that. He does approve of a woman’s choice in second and third trimester abortions, but also acknowledges that less than 1% are later than mid-term.
I find the infanticide discussion grasping to incite. If you believe a fetus born with physical responses as living, then I can see how “pro-lifers” would think a baby is born alive. However, physical reactions to inner electrical impulses do not a baby breathing make. Not that they are anything similar, the best example of something not alive that can still physically function is the chicken with his head cut off. Or humans that continue physical movement even after they die.
Trying to find balanced information on this topic is virtually impossible. The verbiage is incredibly inflammatory when coming from the right and defensive when it comes from the left. Where is the truth? I am sure somewhere in the middle.
I have no problems with what Obama says about supporting Roe vs. Wade to its letter, including terminations late in pregnancy. While I wouldn’t be able appropriately counsel a woman unsure of her choices at 24+ weeks for anything that wasn’t a life or death issue (for mom OR baby), I wouldn’t keep her from making that choice.
I am not a great debater when it comes to issues such as this, but I am able to counter (or agree with) others’ thoughts as they present them. As long as the discussion is civil, not flaming (no name-calling or snide comments allowed!) and productive, I am glad to continue approving comments. When/If it disintegrates, I’ll just close off the topic. I do not expect anyone to change another’s mind – and we have all surely heard the arguments on both sides – but if we want to discuss the Obama issue, I am game. Just know there isn’t one thing you can say to make me vote for anyone else than Obama.