Fact #1: a pregnant woman with a brain-death diagnosis can gestate a healthy live baby. Of course, not every such pregnancy has such an outcome.
Fact #2: Because of Fact #1, some foreign countries and some states in the USA have laws to give unborn babies in these unfortunate circumstances a chance to fight for their lives. These are good and necessary laws. But they are not sufficient.
In a culture that regards suffering as the worst evil, such laws are an excuse for a lawsuit, and such lawsuits tend to be decided against the baby: cf. the case of Marlise Munoz in Texas a year ago and, just last month, the case of an unnamed woman in Ireland.
While unborn children need laws to protect their lives, even more an unborn baby needs someone to be his advocate. Usually, of course, a mother advocates for her babe by eating right and making plans. But who advocates for the baby of a brain-dead woman?
In a Florida case in 2013, doctors wanted to end life support of a brain-injured woman who lost consciousness due to a drug overdose when she was eight weeks pregnant. In this case, the woman’s mother was the baby’s advocate: She wouldn’t let them pull the plug because she knew her daughter “would want the child to have a chance.” That baby was born and subsequently adopted.
In Ireland last month, a grandfather was the opposite of an advocate for his grandbaby. He brought the lawsuit to remove his daughter’s life support. The hospital would not do it because according to the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland, an unborn child is as much a citizen as his mother—even if the mother is brain dead.
Where was the child’s father? A news account referenced a “partner,” the father of the woman’s other children, who told the court “he was fully behind the family’s decision to ask for the life-support to be switched off.”
There was nobody to advocate for the unborn child.
The Irish Court’s death-dealing decision (granted, in a bitter irony, the day after Christmas) stated that “to maintain and continue the present somatic support for the mother would deprive her of dignity in death. . . .”
Come again? She knew no pain or suffering, she was being nourished and watched by hospital staff.
This father considered it “extremely distressful” that his daughter was being kept on life support just to save the unborn child. The doctors who testified in court uniformly said that the “chances of the foetus surviving are minimal.” “I want her to have dignity and be put to rest,” the father said.
What he probably meant was he wanted to have some rest himself. That is understandable. Of course his heart broke every time he looked at his twenty-something daughter who had been declared “brain dead” on December 9 after a fall. His hopes and dreams for her would have been shattered beyond recovery—all the promise of her life come to naught so painfully young—his own life passing through his fingers as he watched her every breath—it would be agonizing for him.
But no matter how profound his pain, love is not about alleviating one’s own misery. Love is about wanting what is best for the beloved. He could have held on and hoped against hope that the doctors were wrong in their gloomy prognosis.
He could have given the baby a chance to fight for life. All he needed to do was keep silent and let a good law protect his grandchild. But instead someone convinced him to do otherwise.
And unfortunately for the baby, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, whose job was to advocate for the baby, doesn’t like the Eighth Amendment because he supports a woman’s right to choose abortion.
Nobody advocated for the child.
Doctors testified that the mother’s condition was “declining.” Well, if the mother were truly “declining,” the problem would have soon ceased of its own, wouldn’t it? Why not keep the wee one fed and hydrated inside the womb, and let nature take its course? Perhaps the baby would live, perhaps not. If the mother were “declining,” what need to hasten the end?
Fact#3: Cases like this reveal the hypocrisy of the defenders of a woman’s “freedom to choose.”
When abortion is the topic, their rhetoric is all about the woman’s right to choose—forget the family. They assume women will want abortion, so they trim their rhetorical sails to that wind.
But when the woman isn’t able to do any choosing, and her family wants to pull the plug—well, then the rhetoric is all about the family’s wishes.
In Texas last year, militant pro-abortion politician Wendy Long led the pack of public figures calling for the plug to be pulled on Marlise Munoz. Ditto the pro-abortion movement in Ireland recently.
You’ll listen a long time before you hear a word about the mother’s presumed desire for her baby to live.
Nary a breath of advocacy for the baby from these self-styled women’s advocates—even if it is logical to presume that the baby was wanted. Does not even that condition of being wanted earn the baby the right to an advocate?
Apparently not if he’s in his mother’s womb. Not if even the law says to give him a chance. Not if there’s a pro-life law on the books and the abortion lobby is desperate to gin up a campaign against it. No unborn life is safe in the face of that ideology, in the green isle of Erin or anywhere else.
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Connie Marshner has been a pro-life, pro-family researcher, grassroots trainer, organizer, and lobbyist; manager; writer; homeschooler; editor; campaign adviser; coalition leader; fundraiser; and political strategist. She is absolutely thrilled now to be a blogger for Human Life Review.