Created for Joy

Marriage and family life are punctuated with times of great happiness and joy, such as the wedding day and the birth of a child.  Also known to family life are times of great sadness as daily struggles, illness and death are contended with.

These times of joy and sadness help us to see the dignity of each person as we learn to really love by putting aside our selfish desires, and reaching out as gift and service to those around us.

In the book of Genesis, we learn that each person is made in the image of God.  This means that we were created out of love, for love, and are therefore made for communion and to share in God’s joy.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made this point at the 2012 World Meeting of Families when he said “it is love that makes the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity, [the] image of God.”

This love is different than what the world would have us believe love is.  It does not seek to put self first, but rather places the needs of others – both temporal and spiritual – above our own.  Real love, puts aside raw emotion, which can oftentimes distort our perception of reality, and focuses on the good of the other.  Love wants what is best for the beloved. Through following God’s truth about marriage and family life, revealed through the Church, we are able to grow in authentic love for one another.

We are reminded by St Gianna Molla, a wife and mother who understood what sacrifice was all about, that “love must be total, full, complete, governed by God’s law, and it must carry over into eternity.”

True joy comes to us when we realise that this love and communion with God and others is what we were made for.  When we embrace this calling and live it authentically we are able to communicate to the world the great joy of following Christ.

Synod on the Family: Consultation of the New Zealand Bishops

FamilyThe New Zealand Catholic Bishops have released their consultation questionnaire in preparation for this year’s Synod on the Family which is to be held in Rome, October 5th to 19th.

Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North will be participating in the Synod this October.

Responses to the questionnaire need to be submitted before Monday 9th March.

The focus of this second phase is supposed to be “on practical pastoral approaches which strengthen the beauty of married life and accompany those whose relationships are not unfolding within the bond of marriage.”

However, this paragraph is found in the Bishop’s statement:

We are acutely aware of the many people who in their hearts consider themselves Catholic but are not regularly at Church. Please encourage these family members and friends to participate. Also of particular interest to us are those who see themselves as beyond the Church: perhaps some divorced and remarried, or gay women and men. We urge you to share your experiences through the questionnaire. No-one walks beyond the reach of the Good Shepherd.

And it was concerning to read the following (emphasis mine):

The proposed questions which follow and the reference numbers to the paragraphs in the Relatio Synodi are intended to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection and to avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine, which would not respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly and would lead their reflection far from the path already indicated. 

Given the grave scandal that occurred during the last Synod on the Family, every Catholic, especially those who are faithfully trying to live their vocation, is encouraged to speak the truth in love.

Family Life International NZ is one of the supporting organisations of Voice of the Family, an initiative which has been formed specifically to offer expertise and resources on family issues before, during and after the Synods on the Family.

The submission made by Voice of the Family to the Pontifical Council of the Family’s consultation is a useful document to read prior to answering the questions in the survey.

Familiaris Consortio – On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World – is another very important document to peruse.  This document was prepared by Saint Pope John Paul II at the end of the 1980 Synod on the Family.

The Lineamenta “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World” contains the text of the Relatio Synodi (the final document of the last Synod) and the discussion questions.

The questions in the New Zealand Catholic Bishops survey are presented below for your reflection.  A Word document can also be downloaded at the Catholic Bishops website.  Answers to the questions can be submitted on this online form.

As well as filling out the survey, let each of us ensure that we pray daily for Pope Francis, as well as every Cardinal, Bishop and Priest – especially those who will participate in the Synod on the Family.

Consultation Questions in preparation for the Ordinary Synod on the Family October 5th to 19th, 2015

Does the description of the various familial situations in the Relatio Synodi correspond to what exists in the Church and society today? What missing aspects should be included?

The proposed questions which follow and the reference numbers to the paragraphs in the Relatio Synodi are intended to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection and to avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine, which would not respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly and would lead their reflection far from the path already indicated.

1. What initiatives are taking place and what are those planned in relation to the challenges these cultural changes pose to the family (cf. ns. 6 – 7): which initiatives are geared to reawaken an awareness of God’s presence in family life; to teaching and establishing sound interpersonal relationships; to fostering social and economic policies useful to the family; to alleviating difficulties associated with attention given to children, the elderly and family members who are ill; and to addressing more specific cultural factors present in the local Church?

2. What analytical tools are currently being used in these times of anthropological and cultural changes; what are the more significant positive or negative results? (cf. n. 5)

3. Beyond proclaiming God’s Word and pointing out extreme situations, how does the Church choose to be present “as Church” and to draw near families in extreme situations? (cf. n. 8). How does the Church seek to prevent these situations? What can be done to support and strengthen families of believers and those faithful to the bonds of marriage?

4. How does the Church respond, in her pastoral activity, to the diffusion of cultural relativism in secularized society and to the consequent rejection, on the part of many, of the model of family formed by a man and woman united in the marriage and open to life?

5. How do Christian families bear witness, for succeeding generations, to the development and growth of a life of sentiment? (cf. ns. 9 – 10). In this regard, how might the formation of ordained ministers be improved? What qualified persons are urgently needed in this pastoral activity?

6. To what extent and by what means is the ordinary pastoral care of families addressed to those on the periphery? (cf. n. 11). What are the operational guidelines available to foster and appreciate the “desire to form a family” planted by the Creator in the heart of every person, especially among young people, including those in family situations which do not correspond to the Christian vision? How do they respond to the Church’s efforts in her mission to them? How prevalent is natural marriage among the non-baptized, also in relation to the desire to form a family among the young?

7. A fixed gaze on Christ opens up new possibilities. “Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (n. 12). How is the teaching from Sacred Scripture utilized in pastoral activity on behalf of families. To what extent does “fixing our gaze on Christ” nourish a pastoral care of the family which is courageous and faithful?

8. What marriage and family values can be seen to be realized in the life of young people and married couples? What form do they take? Are there values which can be highlighted? (cf. n. 13) What sinful aspects are to be avoided and overcome?

9. What human pedagogy needs to be taken into account — in keeping with divine pedagogy — so as better to understand what is required in the Church’s pastoral activity in light of the maturation of a couple’s life together which would lead to marriage in the future? (cf. n. 13)

10. What is being done to demonstrate the greatness and beauty of the gift of indissolubility so as to prompt a desire to live it and strengthen it more and more? (cf. n. 14)

11. How can people be helped to understand that a relationship with God can assist couples in overcoming the inherent weaknesses in marital relations? (cf. n. 14) How do people bear witness to the fact that divine blessings accompany every true marriage? How do people manifest that the grace of the Sacrament sustains married couples throughout their life together?

12. How can people be made to understand that Christian marriage corresponds to the original plan of God and, thus, one of fulfillment and not confinement? (cf. n. 13)

13. How can the Church be conceived as a “domestic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 11), agent and object of the work of evangelization in service to the Kingdom of God?

14. How can an awareness of this missionary task of the family be fostered?

15. The Lord looks with love at the Christian family and through him the family grows as a true community of life and love. How can a familial spirituality be developed and how can families become places of new life in Christ? (cf. n. 21)

16. What initiatives in catechesis can be developed and fostered to make known and offer assistance to persons in living the Church’s teaching on the family, above all in surmounting any possible discrepancy between what is lived and what is professed and in leading to a process of conversion?

17. What initiatives can lead people to understand the value of an indissoluble and fruitful marriage as the path to complete personal fulfilment? (cf. n. 21)

18. What can be done to show that the family has many unique aspects for experiencing the joys of human existence?

19. The Second Vatican Council, returning to an ancient ecclesial tradition, expressed an appreciation for natural marriage. To what extent does diocesan pastoral activity acknowledge the value of this popular wisdom as fundamental in culture and society? (cf. n. 22)

20. How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God? How can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity towards families, especially those which are wounded and fragile? (cf. n. 28)

21. In the case of those who have not yet arrived at a full understanding of the gift of Christ’s love, how can the faithful express a friendly attitude and offer trustworthy guidance without failing to proclaim the demands of the Gospel? (cf. n. 24)

22. What can be done so that persons in the various forms of union between a man and a woman — in which human values can be present — might experience a sense of respect, trust and encouragement to grow in the Church’s good will and be helped to arrive at the fulness of Christian marriage? (cf. n. 25)

23. How is the family emphasized in the formation of priests and other pastoral workers? How are families themselves involved?

24. Are people aware that the rapid evolution in society requires a constant attention to language in pastoral communication. How can an effective testimony be given to the priority of grace in a way that family life is conceived and lived as welcoming the Holy Spirit?

25. In proclaiming the Gospel of the Family, how can the conditions be created so that each family might actually be as God wills and that society might acknowledge the family’s dignity and mission? What “pastoral conversion” and what further steps towards an in-depth examination are being done to achieve this?

26. Are people aware of the importance of the collaboration of social and civil institutions on behalf of the family? How is this actually done? What criteria are used to inspire it? In this regard, what role can be played by family associations? How can this collaboration be sustained even in a bold repudiation of the cultural, economic and political processes which threaten the family?

27. How can relations between family, society and civil life be fostered for the benefit of the family? How can the support of the State and the international community be fostered on behalf of the family?

28. How is marriage preparation proposed in order to highlight the vocation and mission of the family according to faith in Jesus Christ? Is it proposed as an authentic ecclesial experience? How can it be renewed and improved?

29. How does the catechesis of Christian initiation present an openness to the vocation and mission of the family? What practices are seen as most urgent? How is the relation among Baptism, Eucharist and marriage proposed? What emphasis is given to the character of the catechumenate and mystagogy which is often a part of marriage preparation? How can the community be involved in this preparation?

30. Does marriage preparation and accompanying couples in the initial years of married life adequately value the important contribution of the witness and sustenance which can be given by families, associations and family movements? What positive experiences can be reported in this regard?

31. The pastoral accompaniment of couples in the initial years of family life — as observed in synodal discussion — needs further development. What are the most significant initiatives already being undertaken? What elements need further development in parishes, dioceses or associations and movements?

32. What criteria in a proper pastoral discernment of individual situations are being considered in light the Church’s teaching in which the primary elements of marriage are unity, indissolubility and openness to life?

33. Is the Christian community able to be pastorally involved in these situations? How can it assist in discerning the positive and negative elements in the life of persons united in a civil marriage so as to guide and sustain them on a path of growth and conversion towards the Sacrament of Matrimony? How can those living together be assisted to decide to marry?

34. In a particular way, what response is to be given to problems arising from the continuity of traditional forms of marriage in stages or those between families?

35. Is the Christian community in a position to undertake the care of all wounded families so that they can experience the Father’s mercy? How does the Christian community engage in removing the social and economic factors which often determine this situation? What steps have been taken and what can be done to increase this activity and the sense of mission which sustains it?

36. How can the identification of shared pastoral guidelines be fostered at the level of the particular Church? In this regard, how can a dialogue be developed among the various particular Churches cum Petro and sub Petro?

37. How can the procedure to determine cases of nullity be made more accessible, streamlined and possibly without expense?

38. With regard to the divorced and remarried, pastoral practice concerning the sacraments needs to be further studied, including assessment of the Orthodox practice and taking into account “the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances” (n. 52). What are the prospects in such a case? What is possible? What suggestions can be offered to resolve forms of undue or unnecessary impediments?

39. Does current legislation provide a valid response to the challenges resulting from mixed marriages or interreligious marriages? Should other elements be taken into account?

40. How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies? What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate? While avoiding any unjust discrimination, how can such persons receive pastoral care in these situations in light of the Gospel? How can God’s will be proposed to them in their situation?

41. What are the most significant steps that have been taken to announce and effectively promote the beauty and dignity of becoming a mother or father, in light, for example, of Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI? How can dialogue be promoted with the sciences and biomedical technologies in a way that respects the human ecology of reproduction?

42. A generous maternity / paternity needs structures and tools. Does the Christian community exercise an effective solidarity and support? How? Is it courageous in proposing valid solutions even at a socio-political level? How can adoption and foster-parenting be encouraged as a powerful sign of fruitful generosity? How can the care and respect of children be promoted?

43. The Christian lives maternity / paternity as a response to a vocation. Is this vocation sufficiently emphasized in catechesis? What formation is offered so that it might effectively guide the consciences of married couples? Are people aware of the grave consequences of demographic change?

44. How does the Church combat the scourge of abortion and foster an effective culture of life?

45. Fulfilling their educational mission is not always easy for parents. Do they find solidarity and support from the Christian community? What suggestions might be offered in formation? What steps can be taken to acknowledge the role of parents in raising children, even at the socio-political level?

46. How can parents and the Christian family be made aware that the duty of transmitting the faith is an intrinsic aspect of being a Christian?

 

 

Egg freezing: A work benefit?

Two leading technology companies, Apple and Facebook, are funding their workers or ‘partners’ to have their eggs frozen for future IVF. This is already covered by Facebook’s employee benefit plan, and Apple plans to introduce it in the 2015. Both companies will be offering a US$20 000 benefit for reproductive technologies including egg freezing, surrogacy and IVF.

These companies have been accused of offering egg freezing so female employees can focus on their work and leave the family until later. That’s certainly how many are seeing this move, including some who think it’s a good thing, as well as those who see it as exploitation. This is still a problem from the career point of view. After the age of 35, the success of using frozen eggs drops. And that’s still well before most careers peak.

But that is the least of the problems. Egg freezing will invariably lead to IVF, and IVF is very wasteful on human life. With current success rates, less than ten percent of embryos that are created survive to birth. Those that do survive suffer higher rates of abnormalities than children conceived naturally.

The process of egg freezing as a ‘benefit’ is a troubling development in modern parenting. It changes the attitudes and motivations of parenting. Children normally come from the loving embrace of their parents. This physical act of love causes a child to be born from love of their parents. With frozen eggs these babies start life in a plastic dish after a commercial transaction. And increasingly these babies are being born to people who aren’t their biological parents. So children will be seen less as a gift, and more as a product or a right. Either way the child becomes a means to an ends, with parental satisfaction becoming more important than respecting the dignity and rights of the child.

One fertility expert expects egg freezing to become standard for professional women. At US$10 000 to US$13 000 a time and US$500 a year for storage it could be a lucrative business. However, fertility experts recommend freezing at least 18 eggs. It might require two or more egg retrievals to collect that many eggs. For egg collection, the woman undergoes weeks of hormone injections followed by an invasive procedure to remove her eggs, many more than she would naturally release. This is risky for the women. So the temptation will be to try maximise the number of eggs from a single retrieval, which increases the risk of this potentially dangerous and invasive procedure. When a woman chooses to use frozen eggs, she will find that her choice of family size is greatly restricted. She might only have enough eggs stored to have one or possibly two children. The option to have more children later is probably gone. So egg freezing can become a family planning program too. Effectively a one or two child policy.

These companies also cover surrogacy too. So reproduction risks becoming something that professional women contract out. This is because by the time most careers are hitting their peak, a woman’s fertility has dropped to the point her chances of having a baby survive IVF are very low without a younger surrogate mother.

So Apple and Facebook’s ‘benefits’, substantially change family and parenting. Little regard is held for the lives of the children before birth. They become just another item on the ‘bucket list’. The link between the love of parents and the love of the child is removed and little regard is held for the life of the child before implantation.

And they call this a benefit?

A true pastoral response: teaching the truth in love without fear

Family at the foot of the crossAt a recent press conference for the Synod on the Family it was announced that one presenter, who was not to be named, had proposed that “language such as ‘living in sin’, ‘intrinsically disordered’, or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

That may have an element of truth in it.  People do not like to hear that they are living a sinful life and that their souls are in danger of eternal death and so they stay away or their hearts become hardened.  But it is not the language that is the problem.  This language is speaking the truth with love for the individual created in the image and likeness of God, and who is made for heaven.

The problem lies in the attitude of those who wish to “bend the rules” as it were to “pastorally” embrace those who, because of their personal situations and experiences, feel unwelcomed by the Church.

So much of the discussion around this Synod on the Family has been around the “hardship” people face whose lives, for whatever reason, do not reflect the teaching of the Church on life, love, marriage and family.  It is argued that the Church must allow these people full participation in the Sacraments because that would be truly compassionate and merciful.

But true compassion and mercy stems from concern for the eternal salvation of a person’s soul.

A feeling is just that, a feeling.  It may not be a true reflection of reality at all.

All are welcomed into the Church.  All of us are sinners.  Each one of us must daily choose to take up our cross and follow Jesus.  When we fall we make a firm decision to not fall into the same sinfulness again and we seek reconciliation with our God through the Sacrament of Penance.

A real pastoral response does not push aside the sins as irrelevant, nor does it seek to hide the language of truth in order to make individuals feel better about their choices in life.  Instead, a real pastoral response teaches the flock, explaining carefully the reasons why the teachings exist and then assists people to live their lives faithfully through appropriate practical measures.

Those who defend the Church’s teaching do so, with a great understanding of the trials faced by families and individuals in today’s culture. They have a deep love of Christ and his people.  They have a zeal for the eternal happiness of souls.  Like a good parent who loves their child, they realise that rules exist to protect and to ultimately lead one into the Truth.  Their response is one of true compassion and mercy.

The Saints knew that the goal of heaven could not be won by taking the easy road.  They knew that a true Christian must live sacrificial love.  They inspire us to do the same.  Each one of us is called to sainthood.

St Thomas More was martyred for his stand against Henry VIII’s refusal to accept the Church’s teaching on marriage and divorce.  He defended with all his might the truth of the Catholic Church while Henry changed the rules to suit his own desires and whims, ultimately forming his own church.

St Gianna Beretta Molla knew about sacrificial love.  She gave her life in order that her preborn child may live.

St John Paul II understood the great value of suffering, of giving oneself totally and entering into Calvary.  He taught that to love is to be gift to one another.

St John Paul II’s legacy was also one where many, many young people, encouraged by his words, chose to pick up their cross and follow Jesus daily despite the hardships and difficulties.  These young people are now the families of today who are faithfully living their married lives, opening their hearts and lives to children, living the Gospel of Life.  Sometimes they are seen as fundamentalists or self-righteous when they seek the support they need to live out their vocation faithfully or when they actively search for Pastors who will teach them and their children the Catholic faith without excuses.

A true pastoral response teaches the truth in love without fear.

Great witnesses of the faith are born through solid, truthful formation.

The world needs Christ.  We must not be afraid to love sacrificially, to teach the beauty of God’s plan for love and life and family.  We must know that God’s grace is sufficient and that real mercy can be obtained.  We must not be afraid, as St John Paul II said “to go out on the streets and public places.”

As we serve with love, as we live love, as we teach the truth in love, then we will draw people back into the loving arms of the Church our Mother.

The Numbers game

couplelovebabyOne question that frequently comes up in parenting circles is ‘how many children is the right number?’ I’ve always thought it is an odd that in a pluralistic world, people would think there would be a one size fits all family.

There is a lot of advice on the subject, and for those of us with more than three children, a lot of unwanted comments too. I should have seen it coming when our third child was born, and one of the first comments was, ‘Wow, you have a large family now’. We didn’t stop at three, and the comments didn’t stop either. After our fifth, I started getting less comments, with most people sighing and shaking their heads. I think they had given up on me as a lost cause. My wife’s experience was significantly different. The comments and odd looks haven’t stopped.

These comments on family size are one of the few personal criticisms that is still socially acceptable. If you comment negatively about someone’s sexual orientation, you will be shunned from polite society. Similarly for commenting on someone moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage. And yet making humiliating and hurting comments about the number of children good parents have is fair game. ‘She’s too young’, ‘She’s too old’, or ‘Are you addicted to babies?’ Most mums of large families could easily fill a book with the comments that they have received.

And governments get in on the act too.  Some countries have decided the ideal family size, and either encourage through public policy, or legislate their ideal number. Generally this number is one or two. A number is set under the influence of the population control lobby. There is a terrible toll on human life due to forced or coerced abortion.

But here in New Zealand, the decision is the parent’s, but there is certainly social pressure. Back when I was at school, there was great concern about overpopulation. When I grew up I was going to be stepping over bodies wherever I went, and it was certain that there was going to be widespread starvation. We now recognise that famine is caused by distribution problems, generally due to wars. And as for stepping over people to get anywhere, our biggest population problems include widespread loneliness, and the coming demographic winter.

So the academic reasons for limiting family size never really existed. What is left is social and economic.

Housing a family is expensive, and there is a growing expectation that all children should have their own room. The expectations for what a child should own are getting unrealistic. Some schools dictate each child should own a tablet or laptop computer. Every teenager expects to have a cell phone, and usually a smartphone. Even state schools have suggested donations and all manner of activity fees.

So the faithful Catholic couple has to live in a world that is hostile to the idea of being generous with the size of their family. Here the Church makes the most modest demands, and these are for the benefit of the couple and their family.

The Church asks for generosity, and what newly married person does not want to be generous with their love for their spouse? The church asks that their loving gift of self to each other is complete, and does not selfishly hold back fertility. What newly married couple plans selfish motives in their love? Here the Church goes even further to help the couple. She encourages natural fertility regulation as a means, for serious reasons, to avoid pregnancy for a time. So the Church proposes means to avoid pregnancy without entering into a contradictory act. That is where they appear to giving themselves fully, but at the same time they limit their gift of self by withholding the very part of that gift that takes love beyond the couple. That being their fertility. And it’s children that take the loving gift of self between loving spouses, and multiply that gift beyond the couple.

And finally the Church trusts the married couple to make decisions about when they are ready for each child. The guidance she gives in no way determines a one size fits all number of children a family should have. They are free to decide, based on their circumstances, whether to, as one Catholic women described to me, “Just plan our family naturally”. Or alternatively wait until circumstances have improved.

In no way does the Church impose on the married couple, rather she gently proposes her teachings for the good of the spouses. If they both choose to follow the advice, marriage is elevated to a state of living a poetry of love. This is in profound contrast to the selfish and utilitarian motives of the world around us.

Surrogacy

babyGammyThe story of baby Gammy’s abandonment by his biological parents for having Down syndrome has opened up a wide discussion around surrogacy.

As the days go on, more information is being revealed about the biological parents of the 7 month old boy and the circumstances of his birth.

We know that Gammy and his twin sister were born as a result of a surrogacy agreement between an Australian couple and an Indonesian woman, Pattharamon Janbua, who is 21 and already the mother of two children.  Her husband agreed that the cash she would receive for being a surrogate (or gestational carrier) would help them out considerably.  That fee was reported to be $AUS11,700.

It was discovered about three months along that there were twins, and more money was offered to Pattharamon.  However, a month later tests revealed that one of the babies had Down syndrome – that baby was Gammy.

Pattharamon says that the Australian biological parents asked that Gammy be aborted, but because of her Buddhist believes she could not do it.

When the twins were born, the Australian couple took the little girl, who we know very little about, but who obviously did not have Down syndrome, leaving Gammy at the hospital.

According to Indonesian law, Pattharamon is Gammy’s legal parent.  Gammy has medical issues, in particular a heart condition which needs surgery – a complication that is reasonably common in those with Down syndrome – this has led Pattharamon to go public and to ask for assistance.  More than $200,000 has been raised and this little boy will have the surgery he needs.

In a new twist to the story, it is being reported that the biological father has a “conviction for indecently dealing with a child under 13 and has served jail time after being found guilty in 1998.”

The story raises many points to discuss around parenthood, surrogacy, IVF, infertility, abortion and disability, too many for this post.

Infertility, or the inability to carry a child because of the lack of a womb is a tragedy that brings great heartbreak for many people.  It is natural for people, and women in particular, to desire to have a child.  There is something innate in us that wishes to carry on a part of yourself.  Love between a man and a woman is at its best when it multiplies to include children.

But at what point does the desire to have a child become a want, a need a must have possession at all costs?

So many couples today are experiencing infertility and generally the response is to deal with it by approaching a fertility clinic such as Fertility Associates.

IVF (in vitro fertilisation – the creation of a new human being in a petri-dish) is very common place.  It is often not talked about for many reasons.  Those of us who oppose it on the grounds that it creates children outside of the marital embrace and removes the dignity of human embryos by freezing the excess and discarding the imperfect, tend to keep quiet so as to not offend friends who desperately wish to have a family.

Pregnancy is sacrosanct.  One must be able to have their own genetic child at all costs – and it costs a lot.  (Private treatment costs with Fertility Associates is so complex that they have developed a Fertility Cover plan where payment can be made for three cycles with 70% being refunded if no baby results).

Often donors are required to fulfill the “dream”, complicating the situation further.

Then there is surrogacy.  Which is how baby Gammy now finds himself the subject of much debate.

Out of his biological parents desire to have a child at whatever cost, they chose to have another woman carry their child to birth, entering into a contract, an agreement, and paying money for “services”.  The desire to have a child and the subsequent agreement was only ever for the delivery of a “perfect” child.  That is what they paid their money for.  That is why they asked for little Gammy to be aborted when it was discovered in utero that he had Down syndrome.  That is why they were able to walk away from him, tearing him apart from his twin sister.  He, in their eyes, was not perfect and a child with Down syndrome was not what they had invested in.  To this couple Gammy has no worth because he is a defective object that doesn’t fulfill the contract made with the surrogate mother.

We should not be shocked.  The attitude that pregnancy is a right if one chooses it has permeated society to such an extent that a mother has a right to terminate the vulnerable life within her if she so chooses.  Why would it be any different when she pays money for another to carry that child to birth?  Abandonment after birth is only an extension of the desire to abort an already living human being in the womb.

How many pre-born children, diagnosed with various fetal anomalies are aborted each year not only here in New Zealand, but throughout the world, because they do not meet the expectations of perfection?

As a society we must see children as gifts, not as objects that can be manipulated in the science lab.  We must see that all children have worth and dignity and cannot be “terminated” or abandoned simply because they do not measure up to our standards of perfection.  If we do not, then little Gammy’s life has taught us nothing and we will find ourselves discussing situations even more graver than this.

 

 

Note:  I have noticed that an alternative spelling for the surrogate mother’s name is being used – Pattaramon Chanbua.  I have also seen quoted an alternative amount paid by the Australian couple – $AU$16,000.

Life affirming ultrasound

Ultrasound PhotoI recently had the experience of sitting in on a 19 week pregnancy scan. For my wife and I it was the first chance to see our new child and as such, we were both looking forward to it.

For many couples, the first pregnancy ultrasound is the first bonding experience they have with their new child.  Before the days of ultrasound, a mother’s first bonding to the new baby was started when she first felt the baby moving, but increasingly, the ultrasound is the first experience that mothers and fathers have with their new child.  This is recognised by medical researchers. It’s also probably been a factor in society’s increasing recognition of the humanity of the pre born child.

Forming this relationship between parents and the child is important. The strength of the bond will affect many outcomes for the child, particularly for the child’s education.

I have personally found a great deal of difference between sonographers.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing Shari Richard at work, and seen her infectious enthusiasm for the unborn child, and the positive effect it has on the child’s parents.  Few sonographers can match her enthusiasm.  I’ve seen other sonographers at work, including one working on me, although she wasn’t going to find a baby and wasn’t looking for one!  They differ greatly in the way they interact with parents about their new baby.  The most recent sonographer we had always referred to our child as ‘baby’, e.g. “This is babies head” etc.

But this isn’t always the case.  We had a scan in a previous pregnancy when the sonographer became very quiet.  Later we found out the reason – she had found a medical problem with our child.  Although it was potentially very serious, a couple of surgeries fixed the problem before it could do any serious damage, and our child now enjoys excellent health.

But why the difference in the response of the sonographer?  Our baby didn’t stop being our baby because he had a medical problem. We certainly didn’t love him any less.

But sonographers and other medical professional are influenced by abortion.  Abortion is considered a solution to many birth defects, so it’s natural for sonographers to moderate their enthusiasm for the baby during scans.

But this could affect the start of the formation of the bond between baby and parents. Crisis Pregnancy Centres have known for a long time the benefit of an expectant mother seeing her baby by ultrasound.  It encourages the bond to form between mother and child.  But ultrasound can be used in a way that doesn’t encourage this bonding.  Clinic profit motives and abortion quotas can affect the way ultrasound results are presented and interpreted.  A recent study of 15 500 women attending Planned Parenthood abortion clinics showed that viewing ultrasound images had very little effect on the mothers decision to abort her child.  It’s hard to imagine the ultrasound technicians in these abortion clinics wanted to present the humanity of the pre-born child and facilitate bonding between mother and child.

Similarly, using ultrasound as a search and destroy mission to eliminate less than perfect is not a good way to encourage bonding. It’s important for the sonographer to show the beauty and humanity of the pre-born child.  This is the start of a relationship that will last a lifetime.  It’s the most important relationship, and it deserves a good start.  Children do better when there is good bonding with their parents.  It’s here that the sensitivity to the minority that have abortions, affects the rest of us – and our children.

It is one of the ways that abortion affects us all.