Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Every baby a woman gives birth to is dying

Mark Shea writing for Catholic Exchange has an article about how to respond to a Catholic couple who aborted a baby with spina bifida and anencephaly (no brain):

And I think the best thing we can do with this situation is not adjudicate the souls of people we don’t know anything about concerning a choice they have already made (since that is way too much of a temptation to judge them, especially in cyberspace where judgment and condemnation flow like wine), but to first ask ourselves how we might respond rightly in a similar situation.

In talking to my wife Janet, (the actual baby carrier in this family), she points out the following:

First, ultrasounds have been wrong.

Second, miracles happen sometimes.

Third, and most salient here: every baby she has had is dying. The question is simply, when? Most of them, God willing, will die in 50 to 70 years. But they could die in five minutes.

When we put it that way, we suddenly realize: Knowing that the baby is going to die sooner rather than later is no reason to kill the baby. It is, says Janet, a reason to love the baby for as long as you can while it’s here. That’s very painful, but that is the risk we take every time we choose to love because everything we love in this world is mortal. It may be objected that an anencephalic baby cannot appreciate our love. I would reply that a healthy baby does not appreciate our love either, because a healthy baby has no more mind than a baby born without a brain. The whole point of parenthood, especially in its earliest stages, is radical self-giving (like Christ) to a being who is wholly incapable of giving anything back besides a sucking reflex. It’s an analogy of the grace of God, the great wake-up call, enfleshed, that It’s Not about Me and What I Get from It. A short course in the life of the Blessed Trinity.

In contrast, the unspoken contract, it seems to me, of much of our culture is that the baby is there for the sake of the parents and if the baby is not Perfect, then the parents have the right to break the deal.


Matt said...

Giving birth to a baby who is dying (in the short-term) is very very hard. Giving birth do a baby who will be profoundly ill for a prolonged period of time before dying, I am sure, is even harder.

Yes, you and Mark are correct that the right choice is to let life live, but in charity do not lose sight of the difficulty of that choice. I particularly applaud Mark's first paragraph.

Dan said...

Thanks Matt for your comment. An important reminder, and indeed it was for this particular sensitivity of Mark Shea's that I found his column remarkable.