I cracked open the July copy of the Chatelaine magazine and my eyes fell upon the headline: Tommy’s Story. One woman shares her harrowing choice to end her pregnancy and say goodbye to the unborn son she already loved. “Whoa”, I thought. “This should be interesting.”
Once I read the story, my first response was to be heart-broken for this woman, who clearly regrets her decision, but still seems to be under the delusion that what she chose wasn’t outright wrong. The article focuses on her feelings and struggle to make the decision to have an abortion but not the effect her decision had on her pre-born son, how it ended his short, precious life.
Besides being heart-broken, I was bewildered. Even though I frequently talk to people about abortion and I’m fully aware of where our culture is at in regards to the whole debate, I still forget that this is considered completely normal and acceptable–totally understandable.
My bewilderment quickly led to outrage.
This outrage was largely directed at the father of the child, and the mother’s family. Not one single person encouraged keeping the baby. Apparently, the only sane thing to do with a child who has Downs these days is to get rid of him before he is born and becomes a problem you can’t easily get rid of. I wish she had had the courage to stand up to them but the fact is she had no one around her who saw any value in this child’s life. Sadly, I’ve come to expect this attitude from the medical community, having witnessed it first hand, but my sorrow for her child is compounded by the realization that this truly is the mainstream, normal attitude towards these precious children, even from members of their own family.
However, the thing that really threw me off was the language used throughout the article. Unborn son. Baby. His little hand. Little brother. Kick and wriggle. It wasn’t as though the author was trying to pass Tommy off as something not yet alive, not her child and just a clump of cells. My compassion for this grieving mother is mitigated by the fact that she seems to fully have understood what she was doing. There is full acknowledgement that this is a baby. She only utilizes euphemisms when she talks about what happened to Tommy. She “said goodbye to him.” There was a “procedure” that ended her pregnancy. Although obvious throughout the piece, it is never openly admitted: Tommy was killed by a doctor, with the permission of his mother, because she didn’t want to raise a child with Down Syndrome.
Can you imagine a mainstream Canadian magazine publishing a similar article, concerning a mother making the same choice regarding her child with Down Syndrome–only that child was two years old? Would it simply be a “harrowing choice” that she made and has to live with? I think not (I hope not). Instead of just feeling sorry for this woman, we would expect this woman to face serious consequences for killing her child, no matter what the reason was or how little support she had from her family. How is it possible for a whole country to have such an irrational disconnect between a child who isn’t yet born and a child who has exited the uterus?
I can’t say I wish I understood. I never want to understand what makes it so easy for people to dehumanize a small, helpless pre-born baby while still professing to care about older children in need. There is no sane, rational justification for that belief and I’d prefer not to understand insanity.
My heart goes out to this woman, because although I think her choice is deplorable, she has to live with what she did to her baby for the rest of her life. One day, she will probably have to tell her daughter that her little brother didn’t die because he was sick–he died because his mom chose to have him killed. I hope she finds healing and that her daughter will forgive her.
In the end, I’m also grateful for her honesty and courage in sharing her story because I hope other women will read it and make a different decision.