A version of the following was originally posted December 12, 2023, from the blog of Edward Mechmann “Stepping Out of the Boat.” It is reprinted with permission.
The latest challenge to the Texas pro-life law has gotten a lot of attention. It involves a mother whose unborn child suffers from a serious genetic disorder. The mother wishes to abort the child to prevent herself from future complications from the pregnancy.
The reporting on this case in the major media has been horrible, as usual. Most news sources have basically just reprinted press releases from the abortion advocates who have been pushing the case. So it’s worth taking a deeper look at what was really going on in the case.
Texas law bans all abortions. One exception is whether the mother faces a “life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless the abortion is performed or induced.”
The legal dispute in this case is whether the mother’s condition falls within that exception. A lower court held that it did, but the Texas Supreme Court put that decision on hold, pending further factual findings and legal considerations. In response, the mother left the state and had the abortion.
Obviously, our hearts go out to the family in this case. A negative fetal diagnosis is just about as terrible an experience as a parent can have. Anyone who has experienced any kind of prenatal loss can testify to the pain and tears that it causes. A parent never really recovers from the loss of a child.
But hard cases make bad law, and bad cases make even worse law. This is one of those bad cases.
When you look more closely at this lawsuit, it is clear that this lawsuit was brought in bad faith. It was entirely manufactured by the abortion activist lawyers at the Center for Reproductive Rights. It is based on a deliberate conflation of two issues that are factually and legally distinct — the medical condition of the baby and that of the mother. It is an attempt to invoke legitimate sympathy for the parents of this poor child in order to justify the destruction of that child.
The indisputable fact at the heart of the case is that the mother never needed to have an abortion in Texas. At the commencement of the litigation, she was in Florida — a state that would have legally allowed the abortion she supposedly desperately needed. There is no indication whatsoever that there was ever any kind of medical emergency that required her to travel to Texas to have an abortion. After the lawsuit hit a roadblock in the Texas Supreme Court, she had no apparent problem leaving that state to have the abortion somewhere else.
The case does indeed involve a tragic prenatal diagnosis. The baby has a condition called Trisomy-18, or “Edwards Syndrome.” This is a very grave genetic disorder. Half of babies that suffer from it either die in the womb or within the first week after birth. However, some can survive and have fulfilling lives with sufficient support. 10% live to their first birthday, and some live into adulthood.
Abortion does nothing to treat or care for a Trisomy-18 baby’s condition or to alleviate her suffering — except that by killing her, it makes both her and her suffering go away.
Crucially, the legal papers did not allege that the mother herself had a life-threatening condition that stemmed from the pregnancy — the key legal requirement to fall within the exception to the abortion ban. The mother did state that she had experienced a number of complications that required treatment. The remainder of her allegations were entirely speculative about potential risks she might encounter, and which might affect her future ability to bear another child.
In fact, none of the mother’s allegations about her medical condition were verified under oath by a doctor who personally examined her. There was no evidence presented to the court, aside from the mother’s own statements, that the baby’s prognosis was as poor as she claimed.
The State of Texas had an expert witness doctor who reviewed her allegations and concluded that she had not shown any medical condition that would place her at risk of death or the substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless she had the abortion. The fact that the mother left the state to have an abortion also shows that she did not need an emergency abortion in Texas to save her life.
Astonishingly, there was no allegation that the mother was ever given a medical examination by her fellow plaintiff — the abortionist. They did meet in person, and the doctor examined her medical records. But that is all — there is no evidence of any real doctor-patient relationship. It seems likely that the mother’s only connection with the abortionist had been orchestrated by the abortion advocates in order to create the litigation.
This case was really an attempt to excite public sympathy in order to raise opposition to the state’s pro-life law.
Even with all that, there is one monumentally important point that was never raised in the lawsuit, but which is crucial to understand what’s at stake in cases like this.
This baby was alive at the time the case was filed. She was allegedly about 20 weeks old. Regardless of the genetic anomaly, a baby at that stage of development is about 6 inches long and about 10 ounces in weight. An ultrasound will show you a fully formed baby, and the mother may be able to feel her move.
At that stage of pregnancy, an abortion is usually done by “dilation and extraction.” Let’s not hide behind that clinical medical term. In that kind of abortion, the doctor cuts the baby into pieces while she is still alive and can feel pain. They then use a vacuum and forceps to remove the baby’s body parts from the mother’s womb. It’s an appalling and disgusting procedure.
However serious the complications the mother might have been facing, there is no way that dismembering and killing her child is the right way to help her. And it is a distorted sense of mercy to decide that the way to alleviate the suffering of a disabled child is to kill her in the most horrible way imaginable.
This is why pro-life laws, such as Texas’, are so important. And this is why we should be grateful to the leaders of pro-life states for their staunch defense of their laws.