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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/9/19

Missy, You Failed the Test

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New crib. Blank canvas. Now where's my records... this place is looking way too empty.
New crib. Blank canvas. Now where's my records... this place is looking way too empty.
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I found this letter on my porch this morning, in a plain manila envelope. The only identification was the signature, printed letters that spelled out CONSCIENCE, and a request to run it. So, I shall:

Missy Comley Beattie (https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/06/07/my-abortion/) has joined the ranks of women who reveal and discuss their abortions as a means of advocating against the abortion restrictions being legislated in several states. She tells the story of her second pregnancy, in which she and her family faced a challenge, a child who would be born with deformities and disabilities.

There is no question that such circumstances can be devastating for a woman and a family. Most expectant parents have a vision of their child-to-be, personified as the chimeric foster child Amber in Ms. Beattie's essay. When that idealized image is destroyed by reality, parents are faced with mourning the child they had thought would join them, and learning what the future holds and how to accept and address it. Or, when the law allows, they make another choice.

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Ms. Beattie says her daughter in utero was diagnosed in the second trimester with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. When presented with her options by her doctor, she immediately made the decision to abort, and delivered the dead fetus through painful labor. Fearful of what the future would hold for her family, her choice was to agree to the death of her child.

Beattie writes: "My life wasn't in danger. I'd have been forced to give birth to a child requiring surgery after surgery, who would never have had a normal life. All my time, energy, emotions would have been devoted to her care. Nothing would have remained for my son, for my husband."

Beattie makes a valid point. Her daughter would likely not have had a "normal" lifebut she may have had an exceptional and wonderful life, an opportunity that was lost, taken away. My own daughter, Felicia, suffered a lack of oxygen in utero and was diagnosed as an infant with severe developmental delay, cerebral palsy, and seizures. As a child, she was unable to walk, talk, or care for herself, and needed several surgeries. It was, in a word, tough--for us all. But, Felicia's life also offered her joy. She rolled, sat, played with toys, giggled with music and songs, and met her world and family with a smile. My committed husband and I did spend days and nights caring for her, but we also managed (without family help) to hold down our jobs, and conceive and give birth to two neurotypical sons in the next three years. Both boys joined their sister and served as peer models in our local high-risk intervention program. They also welcomed their sister in her stroller/wheelchair as we picnicked, cheered at soccer games, and traveled on vacation overseas. Now successful and independent adults, our sons did not feel deprived; instead they learned to care for and appreciate individuals with disabilities and the happiness that they can experience despite their challenges.

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Felicia's classmates also thrived in the school programs that supported children with special needs. One young woman with Down Syndrome is a proud TV star today; another, a young man, speaks positively on YouTube about his journey to adulthood and his engagement with life. My parents' and grandparents' generations saw children with genetic deformities or syndromes who survived pregnancy shuttled to exile in institutions. Today, full inclusion, supportive educational and social services, the ADA, and an inclusive environment have seen such children grow and enjoy the fruits of life. On a Mediterranean beach, as Felicia sat in the sand and giggled as the waves tickled her feet, we saw a dynamic teen with spina bifida nearby wheel herself over the pebbles and lower herself into the sea with jubilant laughter next to her welcoming sisters.

My daughter's pediatric orthopedist had a sage bit of advice for us in the occasional moments when we envied 'normality'. "We are all only temporarily able-bodied," he said. In the years since Felicia's birth we have seen neighbors and friends face unexpected challenges for themselves and their families at later stages in childhood and adulthoodtrauma, accidents, injuries, illnesses; all of which have demanded the level of attention, care, support, and love that would have strained Ms. Beattie's caregiving potential.

Beattie admitted: "Here's the distillate: The life, mine, I loved and knew would have been in danger." Of that, there is no doubt. The efforts needed to parent a child with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, including placing shunts needed to drain cerebrospinal fluid, would have changed Beattie's life, but not necessarily in a negative way. The lovely essay, written by Emily Kingsley in the 1980s, still resonates today. http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html

The truth that Beattie chooses to ignore is that what would have been in danger is not her life, but 'the lifestyle she loved and knew', the idyllic lifestyle and vision of parenthood with "normal" children sans special needs. The challenge she faced was indeed a sad one. Sad for her because, unlike us, she missed the opportunity to learn the meaning of unconditional love; sad for her family, which must have wondered about the standards for acceptance she demanded from her children; and saddest of all for her daughter, who, like most of us, disabled or not, might have had a chance to live a mostly happy life.

Many children with a variety of disabilities and special needs, including spina bifida, live fulfilling lives today. A quick internet search provides examples: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2008/02/20/Self-sufficient-and-going-strong-at-77-with-spina-bifida/stories/200802200297 , https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/spina-bifida.html , https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/stories/spinabifida.html .

Ms. Beattie was faced with a sobering test of her parenting role during her short pregnancy. By passing on life for her daughter, she chose not to pass.

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Jill Jackson is a writer, mother, wife, military veteran, and hard-core pacifist and liberal. She swallowed the red pill after 9/11.
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Art Costa

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This is sad, but I've committed to the right of every woman to choose. How or why that choice is made, I'll not judge. In this case, I can't say this was strictly about Missy's life style. While I did not read Missy's article, I've been an avid reader of her short piercingly intelligent exposes, and plan to continue. Thank you for sharing your story.

Submitted on Sunday, Jun 9, 2019 at 7:03:44 PM

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So, the woman chose differently than you did. Her choice, and no one has the right to criticize her for her decision. No one knows what other challenges she was facing or her ability to face or deal with those challenges. Abortion is a personal choice that no one should have to justify to the rest of the world. Hindsight always gives people 20/20 vision. I am a supporter of abortion, for any reason, including as a means of birth control, as long as the taxpayers aren't paying for it. Unlike most conservatives, I have no objection to funding Planned Parenthood with the caveat that the money isn't used to fund abortions to the exclusion of non-invasive birth control.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 10, 2019 at 2:11:46 PM

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Missy didn't fail a test. She made a tough decision.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 10, 2019 at 3:01:47 PM

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The definition of life informs the ethics of abortion. If life begins at conception, abortion is murder. If life begins at birth, then a fetus has no rights until it is born. Most women, upon self-reflection, will likely say that the onset of life is a gradual process, from a couple of cells to a term baby. Attempts to identify a specific date for life's onset, e.g. first trimester, heartbeat, after birth; are social constructs that attempt to overlay a human ethical system on a biological process. The closer to independent life a fetus grows, the more uncomfortable most become with the decision to abort. If life is believed to exist prior to birth, the ethical decision-making process must consider and weigh the rights of the mother vs the fetus. So, abortion to save a woman's life is almost universally supported, but using abortion late pregnancy as "birth control" would give many ethical pause. Late term abortions without ethics consultations may thereby lead to a slippery slope. In the tragic case described, Missy alone decided that her child with spina bifida did not deserve the chance to experience life. Other women may decide the same for a fetus with Down Syndrome. Some may decide that their fetus should be aborted because it's a different gender than they wanted. How many fetuses have been killed globally just for being female? Abortion after the first trimester, when genders and physical characteristics can be identifiedand rejected, could easily become a road to selfish choices and in utero eugenics. Most people have a moral compass; one that, despite politicians' clamor for extreme positions on both sides, considers the ethics and compromises regarding "tough" choices, i.e. in the first trimester, to save the mother's life, or for rape victims, ethical; for convenience, not. Give free birth control to all instead, and offer resources to families who have children with special needs so that all can enjoy the chance to live.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 10, 2019 at 6:47:52 PM

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Resources are already offered and provided to kids with special needs. Unfortunately, those resources do not require any sort of "means testing" thus allowing for abuse of the system. The term "free birth control" is problematic for the simple reason that nothing is free. Funding for birth control would have to be found which in turn creates a political controversy. That in turn means that the issue of abortion will continue to be a political hot potato.


This shall continue to be an unresolved issue in America.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 10, 2019 at 9:39:47 PM

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No one has the right to make this decision for another. And no one has the right to second guess or chastise another for making a different decision. When a child is about to be born into a life of pain and constant medical intervention, then the question is quality of life. Missy chose differently than you for her child. Who is to say she was wrong?

Submitted on Tuesday, Jun 11, 2019 at 8:48:01 AM

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