Prenatal diagnosis is now much easier and safer than ever before. But, these advances also exist within a mix of conflicting and sometimes hidden agendas. January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, so there's no better time to examine the topic and focus on the critical role PHC/PMC’s play in preventing birth defects.
The education we provide to our clients may be the determining factor in preventing a child from being born with birth defects, but this fact raises a great dichotomy to the surface: On one hand, we desire all mothers and babies to be healthy, and we should proactively educate them on how to achieve this. On the other hand, however, we must carefully construct our instruction in a way that avoids negatively influencing a client to seek an abortion if she should learn of a negative diagnosis regarding her baby.
Fetal problems are a serious rationale for considering abortion in our current culture, spurred in part by diagnosis of these abnormalities with the increased use of ultrasound, amniocentesis, and other tests in pregnancy. Ultrasound studies to determine fetal anatomy are often done at 18-20 weeks, so abortions done as a result of these scans are late abortions. But ultrasound is imperfect and analysis of the images can result in inaccurate interpretations.
Pregnant women who have declined abortion for fetuses diagnosed by ultrasound with fatal birth defects have sometimes ended up giving birth to normal babies. Other parents have resisted recommended abortions for serious anatomical problems, and had their babies undergo surgical repair after birth.
A great example of this truth comes from, Is Late-Term Abortion Ever Necessary?, an article by Mary Davenport, M.D., published on the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists website:
C. Everett Koop, M.D., the former surgeon general and renowned pediatric surgeon, was asked during the partial-birth abortion hearings if he had treated children “born with organs outside of their bodies” (omphalocele). Dr. Koop replied, “Oh, yes indeed. I’ve done that many times. The prognosis usually is good….the first child I ever did, with a huge omphalocele much bigger than her head, went on to develop well and become the head nurse in my intensive care unit many years later.”
For fatal birth defects, abortion is sometimes presented as the only option. But a better alternative is perinatal hospice. This involves continuing the pregnancy until labor begins and giving birth normally, in a setting of comfort and support until natural death occurs. It is similar to what is done for families with terminally ill children and adults. Karen Santorum, a nurse and the wife of former Senator Rick Santorum, was faced with the prospect of her own son, Gabriel, being born with a fatal birth defect. She describes how Gabriel lived only two hours, but how in those two hours “we experienced a lifetime of emotions. Love, sorrow, regret, joy—-all were packed into that brief span. To have rejected that experience would have been to reject life itself.” The sense of peace and closure felt by families experiencing neonatal death in a hospice setting contrasts markedly with the experience of families undergoing abortion for fetal anomalies. Couples who have had abortions for birth defects may suffer from adverse long-term psychological effects and prolonged grief reactions. Children who learn that their mothers aborted their siblings can suffer feelings of worthlessness, guilt, distrust and rage.
Non-fatal birth defects can be more challenging. The most common prenatal diagnosis resulting in mid-trimester abortion is Down syndrome. There has been an aggressive campaign by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to use new technologies to detect Down syndrome in younger women through measurement of fetal neck-fold thickness and first trimester blood tests, now that prenatal diagnosis and abortion have succeeded in eliminating 90 percent of Down babies in women over 35. After diagnosis of Down syndrome, families are often not presented with an honest discussion of parenting their Down syndrome child, or the possibility of their Down syndrome child attending school and leading a semi-independent life. There are couples who are willing to adopt children with Down syndrome or other birth defects, but genetic counselors frequently do not give patients this information. Diagnosis of a child with a fetal anomaly is life-changing and a major stress, but many families rise to the occasion and are able to cope with a disabled child. Although parents choosing abortion may allege that the disabled child is better off not existing, disabled adults would contest that assertion. When surveyed in numerous studies, no differences have been found between disabled and “able-bodied” people as to their satisfaction with life.
A sad depiction of the haste to abort children with birth defects is captured in the following story, from LifeSiteNews.com:
GIA LAI PROVINCE, VIETNAM (May 16, 2012) --- A family is in grief after aborting a child erroneously reported to have congenital defects. The child died shortly after being born following a failed abortion. The mother, Nguyen Thi Thu T., had undergone two ultrasounds that falsely reported birth defects – one in her native Chu Se District and another in Ho Chi Minh City. She chose to abort the baby in the seventh month of her pregnancy. However, as the family gathered to bury the child, they found the baby was still alive and had no such defects. Although they rushed the child to Gia Lai Province General Hospital at 9:30 Sunday morning, it was too late.”
Dr. Gerard Nadal offers some hopeful encouragement to this discussion. He says that, while some are fearful that the newer diagnostic tests for Down syndrome will lead to a higher number of abortions, the already-staggering number of 90-93 percent of unborn Down syndrome babies being aborted can also offer a glimmer of hope.
The regrettably high number of Down syndrome babies being aborted means "there is not much room for (those numbers) skyrocketing", Dr. Nadal points out, and the advances in amniocentesis, which can diagnose Down syndrome as early as the 10th week, may actually offer parents more time to come to terms with the diagnosis and seek alternative advice earlier in the pregnancy than previously available.
Helping the parents come to terms with the reality of their child’s special needs ahead of time is critical for bonding. As those called to serve these parents, it is essential for pregnancy help medical personnel and peer counselors to understand just how devastating a negative diagnosis can be, so that we can provide help during a difficult time. The earlier the diagnosis, the more time we have to help them.
Still, there is a disturbing eugenic flavor to the fact that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other groups are now recommending Down syndrome screening to all pregnant women. Many physicians are beginning to recommend that clients undergo non-invasive prenatal screening for fetal abnormalities, with a particular emphasis on Down syndrome.
As Steve Calvin, M.D., said in an article posted at AAPLOG.org January 11, 2007, “Women are reporting both subtle and overt pressure to undergo prenatal screening and to have an abortion if DS is found.”
This problem is further seen in the fact that most genetic conditions can be identified in the womb—including Down syndrome—yet, there are no available cures or therapies that can be administered before the child is born. Thus, a predominant purpose of prenatal screening is to offer parents the option of aborting “defective” babies. An estimated 70 percent of pregnant U.S. women will choose to have prenatal screening tests. A certain combination of screening results, though not definitive, can predict DS with up to 90 percent sensitivity.
Let us remind ourselves of the dignity and value of every person, who are all made in the image and likeness of God. Remember too that perfect health and a normal IQ are not required for happiness, friendship, and love of life. Rather than offering parents ways to eliminate their unborn child, we can provide them with more resources and support.
In her article found at PhysiciansForLife.org, Down Syndrome and Abortion, Susan W. Enouen, PE, wrote:
A Harvard study found that mothers who chose to continue their pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome did so for personal reasons such as conscience and religion, but also because they had gotten information about Down syndrome, either in printed materials or from talking to a parent of a child with DS. However, most of the mothers felt that their doctors did not explain DS adequately and in a balanced fashion.
This is where we can have a dramatic impact with a client who is facing a negative diagnosis. Let us become knowledgeable about the issues, develop resources for the client and extend to her the love, compassion, and prayerful support she so desperately needs.
A pregnant woman called the ARIN CARE Line one evening at 11:30pm. She had found our website on the Internet and was calling to schedule her first abortion recovery counseling appointment. Oddly enough, she had not yet ended her pregnancy. She was scheduled for an abortion the next day! My skin got goose bumps when she said....
“I know I’m going to need some help. After the procedure tomorrow, I’ll be one of ‘those people!’”
I lovingly explained to her, that I too was one of those people! That actually there were quite a few of us! It seemed to bring her comfort when I summarized just who we ALL were....
Those people, I explained, are the women, men, siblings, grandparents, and extended family who have chosen an abortion in the past, or been associated with someone who has. Those people are your neighbors down the street, your pastor or his wife, your nephew's teacher, or your son's coach. Those people are your daughter's best friend, your work-out buddy at the gym, your grandmother or friend from school. You're eating lunch with those people at work, studying the Bible with them at church, watching them on TV, listening to them on a CD, or seeing them run for public office. They are those whom you’d never predict would make a choice like abortion.
Those people are individuals who chose abortion when it was legal, or when it was illegal. Either way, those people were deceived into thinking it was the ONLY way out of an unplanned or medically challenged pregnancy. Then realizing, it was too late! Those people ARE EVERYWHERE! And they are suffering in silence around the world! WHY? Because they are too ashamed and too frightened that they will be classified as "those people" when they ask or search for help. I thanked her for calling and for reaching out.
When people, affected by abortion, have physical or spiritual complication we often don't know how to reach out to them as a pregnancy center, society, church or even as a family member. Unfortunately, those who made a "poor choice," don't often know what to do themselves when their world seems to be crashing down around them. ONE abortion, through a rippling effect, can touch as many as 40 people throughout a lifetime.
Some of those affected may choose to do nothing, stuck in denial for years! Others may take a courageous step and seek outside help!
What do we do when approached by the post-abortion client? How do we treat them? Do we grant them complete compassion or quietly scold them with contempt? So we lash out in passive aggressive anger? Or reach out in Christ-centered love? Do we grieve with them differently than a family who mourns a child lost to miscarriage or stillbirth?
Hmm… something we should think about...
Do our volunteers know how to speak to the client who has an abortion in their past? Are our websites friendly to those clients? Or does our web presence create additional triggers and sensitivities that would further push those hurting away? Have all of our staff, who have experienced an abortion, completed an abortion recovery program? Do we promote a "recovery first" position?
Let’s work together to make it easier and more acceptable for people to get the healing they need. Let’s make it safe to talk with them at school, at church, at home and even within our families. Okay... but HOW Stacy?
We can start by making sure our physical buildings and web presence is a gift to those who ache from a past choice. WE can be the one person who opens our arms, our hearts and our centers to welcoming those people who just might need our unconditional acceptance. We, at ARIN, wish to help! Our goal for 2013 is to have every pregnancy center reaching out to individuals and families impacted by a previous choice.
Abortion Recovery InterNational (ARIN) has been honored to partner with Heartbeat for the past 10 years. Our affiliates, many Heartbeat affiliated themselves, minister to approximately 40,000 post-abortion clients each year through our CARE Directory and CARE Line. Many of those hurting found our CARE Directory through the Option Line web-link. Many journey through a recovery program and then go on to receive further healing through our Recovery Encore brochure and website.
Whether you have an active abortion recovery program, need some help bringing yours up-to-speed or are prayerfully considering starting one; we are more than happy to help get YOUR program and center ready for ready for the individuals and families impacted by abortion. Phone consultations, center walkthrough, literature and web reviews are all something we enjoy doing to help pregnancy centers, medical clinics and other counseling agencies open their doors, and hearts, to the client who’s abortion affected.
"Abortion Recovering International, Inc. has been a HUGE help in getting our abortion recovery program and website up and running. We were really having a hard time trying to decide if we should renew our membership with ARIN because we felt like we were not getting any response from people needing help. However, ARIN helped us see that there were women seeking help but our approach and website was not "welcoming" to them. ARIN offered a lot of valuable information as well as their time to help us know what direction to go. I am so glad we decided to renew our membership!"
~ Melissa Howard, Sound Recovery, GA
Our goal is for those people impacted by abortion is to find personal peace for their heart, mind, soul and spirit. We’d love to help YOU reach those hurting in your community!
Just One of Those People, Who is Divinely Forgiven...
President / Founding Partner Abortion Recovery InterNational, Inc. - arininc.orgCARE Directory and CARE Line - abortionrecovery.orgRecovery Encore - recoveryencore.org
In Fishhoek, South Africa, "Marc and Veronica" hold their newly adopted baby girl and praise God that, after six long years of waiting, He has answered their prayers.
Cradling their daughter, "Jenna", in their arms at the site where she was left by her birth mother, the beaming parents know firsthand the value of the work Baby Safe International is doing.
For Marc and Veronica, the thought of Jenna’s probable fate without Baby Safe’s life-saving innovation is unimaginable. At just a day old, Jenna would likely have been a victim of infanticide—infant exposure—had it not been for the availability of Baby Safe’s deposit box, which empowers desperate mothers with a real choice to preserve the life of their baby.
In South Africa, “baby dumping,” as it is called, is an increasingly common occurrence in both rural and urban areas. Some babies are found in plastic bags in rubbish heaps, others in storm drains, abandoned fields, ditches, alleys, or even in rural homemade toilets.
Some of these children are found, thankfully, alive, while others are found dead—upwards of 500 in the Western Cape of South Africa in 2010 alone—and still more are never found. This sad fact tells us that baby dumping is, by its very nature, widely unreported.
Baby Safe, a nonprofit Heartbeat International affiliate, specifically targets this injustice in its region, just outside of Cape Town, by producing and distributing “baby safes,” where mothers can leave their babies anonymously as a real alternative to the horror of infanticide.
The box has a variety of safety features to insure that proper care will be given to the baby who is left by his or her mother. When a baby’s weight is detected inside the safe, a team of dedicated staff are immediately notified, while a safety backup system assures the baby will be promptly rescued by Baby Safe volunteers.
Through the production and distribution of these boxes, Baby Safe is carefully building a network that enables desperate mothers to choose life for their babies. This network is spreading throughout South Africa, and has broken through the northeastern border to Swaziland.
While its visible efforts are focused on providing an alternative to infanticide for desperate mothers, Baby Safe’s long-term vision is to connect with at-risk women before they reach the point of dumping their babies, with holistic direction that includes Bible studies, parenting classes, nutrition education, and even exercise and dance classes.
To learn more about Baby Safe, and to find out how you can help, visit TheBabySafe.org.
Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was the first circuit court to rule on government mandates requiring pregnancy centers to post disclaimers and disclosures, declaring that such mandates violate freedom of speech, a constitutional right.
“The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision is a victory for Centro Tepeyac and other Heartbeat International affiliated pregnancy help centers that are rescuing children who were once at risk of abortion by providing practical help and emotional support to mothers who often have been abandoned and abused,” said Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D. “This decision upholding our freedom of speech affirms the life-saving work of pregnancy centers and the importance of providing alternatives to abortion.”
The first case ruled upon by the court was Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County; Montgomery County Council, et al, No. 11-1314 (4th Cir. 6/27/2012) in which the county passed a resolution requiring limited service pregnancy centers to display a sign bearing two statements: “The Center does not have a licensed medical professional on staff. Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.”
The second case, Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns et al v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, et al, No. 11-1111 (4th Cir. 6/27/2012) originated from Baltimore, which involved a city ordinance mandating pregnancy help organizations to post signage in two languages that “the center does not perform or refer for abortions or birth control services.”
The Fourth Circuit Court slapped down both government mandates as violations of free speech, applying strict scrutiny to its analysis of both laws.
The Court applied the same reasoning to both laws:
These rulings signal a strong victory for pregnancy help organizations, not only in Maryland, but across the country, as challenges are raised to similar attempts in other jurisdictions.
The gospel of life in China is taking root. Lofty prayers are being answered!
Because of the nature and scope of this effort, Heartbeat International is releasing Executive Director of Global Advancement John Ensor to begin a new labor, called PassionLife Ministries. Though independent of Heartbeat, PassionLife will seek to work collaboratively with us in our life-saving mission when it officially launches Oct. 1, 2012.
PassionLife is a global missions initiative created to spread the gospel of life and expand the pregnancy help movement in especially difficult places and among people plagued by abortion, infanticide and gendercide. PassionLife will seek to use God’s Word to open the eyes of the Chinese people to the beauty of human life and the ugly truth of abortion.
All of us at Heartbeat are excited to be a part of what the Lord is doing as He expands His work in especially needy areas like China. When God's people respond with a desire to start a pregnancy help organization, Heartbeat’s goal is to provide leadership training and support to assist in equipping those that have been called. John has played an integral part in our movement for nearly 20 years, first as founder and president of a Heartbeat affiliate in Boston, then as a key member of the Heartbeat International Board. He served as a Heartbeat staff member for the past six years before being called to devote his time to bringing God's life-saving message to China.
It is our honor to help launch this new organization, and we greatly anticipate working closely with Chinese leaders who emerge, helping them plan and implement pregnancy help organizations in their own communities.
Please join us as we continue to pray for John's work, and for PassionLife.
May the Lord continue to bless this great and heroic outreach!
In the U.S. the politics of abortion has involved every aspect of government – executive, legislative and judicial branches; state houses and city halls; Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court; even school boards and health officials. After all of the political wrangling of the past four decades the issue is still far from settled.
Yet, the girl who walks into our care isn’t thinking about the “right” determined by seven justices in 1973. She isn’t considering the legal definition of personhood that would apply to her unborn child. She’s focused on a choice that she will carry the consequences of for the rest of her life. The politics are not even remotely a primary concern.
Kind-hearted, compassionate, pregnancy help folks often similarly eschew the politics and the public arena to focus their energies on this non-political client. They are not expecting to change a law at the nation’s capital, but instead are intent upon touching the life (lives) sitting in their counseling room. And while the inconclusive debates rage in far away capitols, the clear result of a baby being born shows the everyday effectiveness of our compassionate efforts.
Yet, the politics of abortion has spilled over into direct legislative attacks on pregnancy centers, and now abortions will be funded through state and national healthcare. For many it has been easy to avoid the politics and focus on the clients. Unfortunately, the politics has come now to us. Nathan Burd, former Public Policy staffer at Heartbeat, said it this way, “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”
Worse yet, limiting ourselves to only championing non-political compassion service efforts to reduce abortion is to gravely miss the reality that politicians are intent on increasing abortion through the legislative process. Even amidst the recent move of a majority of the populous to self-identify as “pro-life,” abortion is no longer just a “right” that is allowed by a Supreme Court decision, but it has become a healthcare option that must be funded and supported by everyone.
What we want less of, we tax. What we want more of, we subsidize.
Subsidies for abortion are set to increase at exponential levels in the U.S. through new health care laws. The recent Supreme Court decision clarifies that a tax will be levied against those who fail to buy insurance that must cover abortifacients. (Not even religious organizations are exempt.)
This must motivate our pregnancy help movement to get even more involved with political process. It is hypocritical for the interventionist to miss an opportunity for prevention.
Intervening with compassion will always be our primary calling. Yet missing the opportunity for prevention by influencing politics is to virtually guarantee that we will only have an increasing number of people in our counseling rooms who need our intervention. True compassion is doing both – intervening with those who are in the valley of decision and preventing others from ever needing our intervention.
Can we be non-political? Perhaps it is possible at an organizational level where we purposefully avoid certain “political” activities due to our tax status or for public relations positioning. But it seems less and less possible in this era for each of us individually where politics is not only coming to our door but poised to dramatically increase the number of clients that we might serve.
I have always been a planner, and the birth of my first child was no exception. I had been married for 7 years, graduated college, and had a high paying job in the IT industry. We had remodeled a bedroom into the perfect nursery, and purchased pretty much every piece of baby equipment sold – we were ready!
After our son was born we felt so fulfilled by our little family that we weren’t really sure if we would have more children. Then 3 years ago, I was laid off from my job. It was also the start of the recession that hit the housing industry hard and my husband’s remodeling business was suffering as well. As a result of the layoff, we not only lost income, but also our health insurance.
It was at this point that we decided we definitely were not going to have any more children. We would not be able to afford it, and we had no medical care. So we sold the crib, gave away the baby clothes we had saved just in case, and instead spent the next years focused on trying to survive a very tough economy.
Last spring, our son was about to turn five and I had plans to enroll in a master’s program in the fall to help me pursue a new career - and I found out I was pregnant. At first I was in denial thinking this isn’t possible, this can’t be right.
Then the denial turned to anxiety. How we could possibly afford a new baby? With no insurance, the hospital bills alone could bankrupt us. I worried about how difficult it would be to go back to school with a newborn and felt dread about “starting over” again; waking up in the middle of the night, hanging diapers, hauling around a stroller. It all seemed overwhelming.
Without a doctor, I didn’t even know where to begin, but I was able to receive a free ultrasound at our local pregnancy help center to determine how far along I was in the pregnancy.
Then she said, “You are pregnant with twins.” I just burst into tears!
The anxiety I felt before the ultrasound turned into complete panic. We couldn’t afford one baby, how could we possibly afford two?
I panicked over what it would be like to carry twins – the chance of medical complications, or having to be on bed rest, perhaps for months. I worried about the likelihood of twins begin born premature and everything that would mean – from extended hospital stays, to astronomical medical bills, to the possibility that a premature birth could lead to a baby with special needs.
I worried about everything. Our house wasn’t big enough, my car wasn’t big enough, I couldn’t possibly go back to school with two newborns. How could we afford cribs, highchairs, car seats, everything times two! Not to mention the cost of diapers alone? There was no way we could have two babies. Without health insurance, it felt irresponsible to do so. I was unsure if we would be able to provide for them, and I knew we could not afford medical care for them.
I was so overwhelmed; my body was shaking, and seeing my distress the volunteer asked if she could pray for me. Then another volunteer came in, and another, and they formed a circle of prayer, and thanked God for the blessings of the babies. But, it did not feel like a blessing to me. It felt like an impossible situation with only one solution.
But I believe it was their prayers led me to the StandUpGirl.com website and what I read convinced me that it was possible and there was another alternative to abortion.
The stories that impacted me the most were from unmarried, teenage girls who hadn’t completed their education. Here I was: 35 years old, college educated, happily married. If these young girls could do it, we could too! I realized that we had to make this work; we had to make a new plan - one that included the lives of our two babies!
On Dec. 12th of 2011, I gave birth to identical twin boys; both very healthy and weighing over 7lbs each. They are a blessing.
StandUpGirl.com and our local pregnancy help center played such an important role in the decision making regarding my pregnancy and I cannot emphasize enough how important I think it is for StandUpGirl.com to list and make available access to the local pregnancy help organization on their home page.
StandUpGirl.com shows us that we can stand up and say “no” to abortion, and the pregnancy help centers provide on the ground support in our own neighborhoods.
At one point it seemed impossible to imagine having twins in our life, but thanks to all the young women who shared their stories on StandUpGirl.com, I could never image our lives without them.
By Angela, devoted mom of 3!
The StandUpGirl Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to providing pregnant adolescent and young adult women with alternatives to abortion. The mission is to change hearts and save lives by educating young women on the development of the unborn child and alternatives to abortion.
For a listing of Pregnancy Help Centers, see the Worldwide Directory--an online directory of life affirming service providers around the world.
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