Supporting Families after an Adverse Pre-Natal Diagnosis

I came across an articleIncompatible With Life,” A Death Sentence for Unborn Children” written by Cora Sherlock today.  The article discusses the arguement that women who receive an adverse pre-natal diagnosis for their unborn child should be given the opportunity to abort that child in Ireland without having to cross over to the UK.

The opportunity would be given to those who had conditions deemed “incompatible with life” if those who are calling for the legislation had their way.  I loved the way that Cora talked about the term “Incompatible with life”.

““Incompatible with life” – it’s such a dread-full sentence. After all, shouldn’t we instead embrace the language of hope? Especially at those times when there appears to be little or no hope to cling to – these are the times we need it most of all. There are too many instances of babies being pronounced “incompatible with life”, and then going on to live happy lives, for us to accept it as a final judgement in every case. Sometimes doctors get it wrong.”

Further on in the article Cora writes:

“Perhaps what we need is a better acknowledgement of what is happening in these cases – a beloved family member is dying before her time. The fact that she is unborn doesn’t change that fact, and it should inform our response accordingly.”

I thought this was such a beautiful way to think about the child and the situation that the family faces.  A way of thinking that should inform every medical professional and every family member when such a diagnosis is made.

At Family Life International NZ we have committed ourselves to supporting families who are going through this very situation.  We have started the Therese Programme which supports families after an adverse pre-natal diagnosis.  We have been able to support a number of families in various ways according to their individual situations over the last few years.  We have rejoiced when a baby diagnosed with anecephaly pre-natally was born perfectly healthy in every way.  We have also mourned the death of a little baby whose funeral was held in our little chapel, and supported her family through that.

In 2010 there were 206 abortions performed in New Zealand for the specific reason of having a “handicapped child”.  (Some of these would be for conditions such as Down Syndrome which do not fall in the “incompatible with life” category).  Some of these aborted children would have been mis-diagnosed.

Our aim is to make abortion unthinkable when an adverse pre-natal diagnosis is made.  Our Therese Programme will work some way towards building a culture where parents and families protect, nurture and love their babies who may not live or who are born with a disability.

For more information on the Therese Programme contact us here.

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