Sparks Fly at Conception-Literally

I remember the shock I felt when I first read these words in the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision:

“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

I could not believe that anyone could deny the obvious: life begins at conception.

Just 5 years later, the first child conceived through in vitro fertilization was born. While I recognize the several ethical problems with this procedure, I thought that at least this obviously proved that life begins at conception since the process was monitored from the beginning. Unfortunately, not to the pro-abortion movement that then pivoted to we don’t know when human personhood begins.

Ironically, presidential candidate Hilary Clinton recently revealed the hypocrisy of this pivot when she said “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights” on NBC’s Meet the Press TV show. (Emphasis added)

Flash of Light

But now researchers at Northwestern University have discovered a flash of light that occurs at the moment of conception To see the video of this phenomenon, go to the link at LifeNews.com.

Here is the science behind this:

“The bright flash occurs because when sperm enters and egg it triggers calcium to increase which releases zinc from the egg. As the zinc shoots out, it binds to small molecules which emit a fluorescence which can be picked up my camera microscopes.

Over the last six years this team has shown that zinc controls the decision to grow and change into a completely new genetic organism.

In the experiment, scientists use sperm enzyme rather than actual sperm to show what happens at the moment of conception.

“These fluorescence microscopy studies establish that the zinc spark occurs in human egg biology, and that can be observed outside of the cell,” said Professor Tom O’Halloran, a co-senior author.”

And

Dr. Teresa Woodruff, a professor at Northwestern said, “We discovered the zinc spark just five years ago in the mouse, and to see the zinc radiate out in a burst from each human egg was breathtaking. It was remarkable.”

An Ethical Downside

Regrettably, the scientists say that the intensity of the flash of light also appears to indicate the egg’s quality and the embryo’s future health. This could allow more in vitro fertilization embryo selection with the destruction of embryos thought to be of lesser “quality”.

Therefore, instead of celebrating this physical proof of conception, Dr. Eve Feinberg, who co-authored the study, said

 “Often we don’t know whether the egg or embryo is truly viable until we see if a pregnancy ensues… If we have the ability up front to see what is a good egg and what’s not, it will help us know which embryo to transfer, avoid a lot of heartache and achieve pregnancy much more quickly.”

However, real heartache comes with infertility, desperate medical procedures to obtain a baby by any means possible, and the termination of life both inside and outside the womb.

But in the meantime, we can still rejoice in the apparent discovery of a true “spark of the Divine”.

 

Why New Indiana Law Bans Abortions Based on Race, Sex or Disabilities like Down Syndrome

Just three days after World Down Syndrome Day, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed a law that, among other provisions, bans abortion doctors from knowingly aborting an unborn baby solely because of an unborn baby’s race, sex, or genetic disability such as Down Syndrome.

Predictably, there was an immediate backlash from groups like Planned Parenthood, the mainstream media and others.

A Bit of History

In 2008, the  Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush. This law, co-sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), was meant to provide parents receiving a pre- or post-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome or other disabilities – like cystic fibrosis and spina bifida – more information and support than had been available in the past. It was inspired by the words and actions of Brian Skotko , who has a sister with Down Syndrome and who is now a board-certified medical geneticist and Co-Director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Among other provisions, the law was written to:

coordinate the provision of, and access to, new or existing supportive services for patients receiving a positive diagnosis for Down syndrome or other prenatally or postnatally diagnosed conditions, including—

the establishment of a resource telephone hotline accessible to patients receiving a positive test result or to the parents of newly diagnosed infants with Down syndrome and other diagnosed conditions

the establishment of a national registry, or network of local registries, of families willing to adopt newborns with Down syndrome or other prenatally or postnatally diagnosed conditions, and links to adoption agencies willing to place babies with Down syndrome or other prenatally or postnatally diagnosed conditions, with families willing to adopt

the establishment of awareness and education programs for health care providers who provide, interpret, or inform parents of the results of prenatal tests for Down syndrome or other prenatally or postnatally diagnosed conditions, to patients. (Emphasis added)

However, the law was never funded due to disputes among members of Congress “over how the topic of abortion would be handled in the materials accepted for distribution.”

But while such positive initiatives went unfunded, funding has been no problem for companies developing prenatal screening tests that can be done ever more easily and earlier in pregnancy. Currently, there is a “cell-free DNA” blood test for expectant mothers that can be done as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy that claims near perfect accuracy in detecting Down Syndrome and other conditions.

However, a three month examination of these unregulated tests by the non-profit New England Center for Investigative Reporting reported

“companies are overselling the accuracy of their tests and doing little to educate expecting parents or their doctors about the significant risks of false alarms.”

And the Center also noted that “prenatal screening tests prompt abortions”.

Even the abortion-supporting American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) current position expresses concerns and states that :

“Given the potential for inaccurate results and to understand the type of trisomy  for recurrence-risk counseling, a diagnostic test should be recommended for a patient who has a positive cell-free DNA test result.”

and

“Management decisions, including termination of the pregnancy, should not be based on the results of the cell-free DNA screening alone.” (Emphasis added)

Nevertheless, a recent study showed that abortion after prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome reduced the Down Syndrome community by 30%.

“Disclosing Down Syndrome to Pregnant Patients: Must You Give an Upside?”

In this rather offensively titled opinion article by Arthur Caplan, PhD. who heads the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, he criticizes laws like Indiana’s:

One reason that women seek abortions is because they don’t want to have a child with Down syndrome. Recently there has been a movement among people who have had children with Down syndrome to say, “That rate of abortion indicates bias. It’s not really choice. It’s fear of Down syndrome. It’s prejudice against Down syndrome.” Some families who have had children with Down syndrome say that they mean a lot to their family; that it has been a great experience to have a child even though the child has Down syndrome; they accomplish a lot, they’re happy, and people have the wrong view about it.

Some have gone further and started to change state laws to say that when you get a positive test for Down syndrome, you are required to get in touch with the Down syndrome associations in your state and get the message that balances the bias that no one wants a kid with Down syndrome.

The problem is that far too many medical professionals themselves seem to have a negative bias when it comes to conditions like Down Syndrome and see no “upside” to Down Syndrome versus abortion. New or expectant parents deserve better, especially when that professional is giving them their baby’s diagnosis.

I found that out personally not only when I had my daughter Karen but also when I talked to other parents who encountered negative attitudes from some medical professionals.

Eventually, we developed an educational program for hospital maternity divisions about how to help new parents of children born with disabilities. I always brought a child with Down Syndrome and his or her parent to these programs and the reaction was amazing. Doctors and nurses who only saw upset parents before now heard from these same parents about the challenges and very real joys of life with their child. Even better, these professionals were charmed by meeting the children themselves.

We found that changes in attitudes and information can change future outcomes for the better for children and their parents.

Conclusion

It is natural to feel shocked and overwhelmed when you are told either before or after birth that your baby has a condition. Panic and fear is not uncommon.

But it is at this vulnerable time that parents especially need the accurate information, resources and support that the Kennedy-Brownback law was designed to provide.

Unfortunately, we have groups like Planned Parenthood that demand legalized abortion at any time during pregnancy for any or no reason at all as a civil right. However, that must not stop us from continuing to strive for a compassionate society that protects every human life, promotes accurate information and fights discrimination at the same time.

“What Kind of Mother is 8 Months Pregnant and Wants an Abortion?”

Just after Christmas, the popular fast news website Yahoo News published the article “What Kind of Mother Is 8 Months Pregnant and Wants an Abortion?”  “as an example of one of our best of 2015.” (emphasis added)

In this story, an anonymous woman called “Kate”, a married mother of one daughter, found out at almost 8 months that her unborn second daughter had Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a genetic disorder that can result in mental and physical disabilities. A subsequent test was said to show severe brain abnormalities.

Kate, now an administrator of the website “Ending a Wanted Pregnancy” which includes a Poor Prenatal Diagnosis Index, decided to have an abortion-for her unborn daughter’s sake. Adoption and keeping the baby were mentioned as options but were rejected by Kate without explanation.

As Kate relates her story:

The doctor said, “We expect your baby to have moderate to severe mental retardation; she’s going to have moderate to severe physical disability; she is probably never going to walk or talk; she will possibly never be able to lift her head; she is going to have seizures all of the time… (and) Babies like this one are not generally comfortable enough to sleep.”

In that moment, I had to shift my thinking. I was hoping for special ed, and had been focusing on questions like: How much should you save to know your special-needs daughter will be OK after you die? I was thinking about long-term care and mild to moderate disability. Instead, I had to think about a baby who was probably not going to live very long, and the longer she lived, the more pain she would be in. That realization – that I was more scared of her living than of her dying — is what made the choice for me.

Kate then tells how difficult and expensive ($25,000) it was to find an abortionist to perform such a late abortion. Kate’s doctor eventually found one in Colorado, far from Kate’s home in Boston and Kate endured a four day abortion procedure.

Kate relates the procedure:

The whole first day was counseling and testing to make sure it was safe to do the procedure. They want to make sure you completely understand what is going to happen and that no one is pressuring you into the decision. At the end of the day, I signed all the paperwork, and the doctor injected the baby with a drug that, over a few hours, slowed her heart to still. It was a very, very difficult day. Euthanizing the baby is, obviously, a very hard thing to do. (emphasis added)

On the fourth day, labor was induced and Kate delivered her dead daughter.

Kate’s 2 year old daughter cried when Kate told her that her expected sister was “gone”. Three years after the abortion, Kate says

Now, every six months or so, we talk about it again — her understanding of it evolves as she grows. At this point, she knows the baby died because she was sick in a way the doctors couldn’t fix, because she had holes in her brain, and you need your whole brain to be healthy.

Kate’s story was obviously meant to generate sympathy for a distraught mother and thus show why abortion should continue to be legal. However, the shocking description of the third trimester abortion and the continued effect on the mother and sister undermine the narrative that abortion is the best option in such a difficult situation.

ANOTHER SIDE TO THE LATE-TERM ABORTION DECISION

Personally, I know what it is like to be told that your baby has severe problems and might die. I was told just a short time after my daughter Karen was born that she had an inoperable heart defect and would live just “2 weeks to 2 months.” I know the panic and fear that mothers like Kate must feel but in my case, as in many others, the doctor turned out to be  wrong about her terminal diagnosis.

Although my Karen later died of complications from pneumonia before her open heart surgery, I treasure the almost 6 months we had together and I have no regrets.

Today, I also have a wonderful stepdaughter who has Turner’s Syndrome, one of the conditions listed in the Poor Prenatal Diagnosis Index on the  “Ending a Wanted Pregnancy” website, and she is now a kind, generous woman who has no mental or physical disabilities.

In both these cases, abortion would have “solved” nothing.

Unfortunately, stories like Kate’s are desperately discouraging to women and families facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis. Tragically, the article also ignores the help and resources available to help such children and their families.

For example, the article does not mention groups like local Birthright centers and the website Prenatal Partners for Life which is “dedicated to providing families, either expecting, or those who have had, a child with special needs or a life limiting condition, the support, information, and encouragement they need to make informed decisions involving their preborn or newborn child’s care.” There are also support and information websites for specific conditions like the Dandy-Walker Alliance , the condition that Kate’s baby had.

And anyone who reads pro-life news sites such as Life News  and NRL News Today  has read many inspiring stories of hope and even unexpected happiness when a woman chooses life for her baby despite a difficult or even terminal diagnosis.

These and other other websites also contain information about Project Rachel, an organization that helps women, men and even families to heal after abortion.

CONCLUSION

I am not writing this blog to condemn Kate or other women who have had abortions. My heart goes out to them and I wish I could have had a chance to personally offer help, options, encouragement and information. I consider these women as additional victims of the abortion mentality that has so infected our society.

However, I do have a problem with abortion supporters who use such tragic stories to garner sympathy and support for their political agenda of legal abortion at any time for any reason and paid for by taxpayers as “reproductive health”.

Women and their babies deserve better.

This is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

In 1982, I was appalled when I read about the Baby Doe controversy  in which the parents of a newborn boy with Down Syndrome refused a common but life-saving surgery,  leaving him to die of starvation and dehydration while lawyers were appealing his case to the US Supreme Court. Four months later,  I gave birth my third child, a beautiful little girl named Karen Ann who had Down Syndrome and a major heart defect. Picture of Karen’s homecoming.

.In 2000, I wrote an article about Karen.  I reprint it here in honor of my Karen and Down Syndrome Awareness month:

“Who Wants a “Defective” Baby?”

“Of course, no one wants to adopt a defective baby. ” This was said with much emotion (and not much charm) by an older gentleman in a class at a local university where I was speaking this past April. I had been invited to discuss the legalities and effects of Roe v. Wade from a pro-life point of view to a class of senior citizens studying the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

While several of these senior citizen students defended abortion as a matter of complete privacy for the mother, their arguments centered around the “need” for legalized abortion as a solution for social problems.

Since I had told the story of my daughter Karen, born in 1982 with Down Syndrome and a severe heart defect, the pro-abortion students were extremely vocal about the personal and societal justifications for aborting a baby like Karen. Hence the statement about no one wanting to adopt a “defective” baby.

“Happily, sir,” I told the senior student, “You are wrong. Even back when I had Karen, I found out from the National Down Syndrome Association that there was a list of people waiting to adopt a baby with Down Syndrome. Just the night before, I added, I had found a new website for matching prospective parents with children who had chromosomal and physical defects.

The student refused to believe that this could be true.

The effects of Roe v. Wade
Life of the mother, incest, rape and fetal defect are the four hard cases usually cited to justify what has now become abortion on demand. All of these are uncommon reasons given in the estimated 1.3 million abortions every year; but the possibility of having a child with a birth defect is a common fear nearly all expectant mothers experience and, not surprisingly, polls show that the majority of the public support abortion in this circumstance.

Although I have always been pro-life, I could understand the fear underlying these poll results. Then my own daughter was born.

Just two weeks before the birth of my daughter Karen, I saw a mother trying to pry her young son with Down Syndrome away from a display case at the supermarket. She looked exhausted.

“Please, Lord,” I silently prayed, “Let this baby be ok. I can handle anything but Down’s.”

When Karen was born with Down Syndrome, I was stunned. But I was quickly put in touch with mothers from the Down Syndrome Association who replaced my fears with information and realistic hope.

Then a doctor told me the truly bad news. Karen had a heart defect, one so severe that it seemed inoperable and she was not expected to live more than 2 months. That certainly put things in the proper perspective.

What “pro-choice” really means
It turned out later that Karen’s heart defect was not quite as bad as originally thought and could be corrected with one open-heart surgery, but I was shocked when the cardiologist told me he would support me 100% if I decided not to agree to the surgery and allow her to die. This was especially hard to hear because, as a nurse, I knew that the doctor would have been otherwise enthusiastic about an operation offering a 90% chance of success — if my child didn’t also have Down Syndrome. Apparently, even though Karen was now a legal person according to Roe v. Wade by the fact of her birth, this non-treatment option could act as a kind of 4th trimester abortion.

It was then that I realized what pro-choice really meant: Choice says it doesn’t really matter if a particular child lives or dies. Choice says the only thing that really matters is how I feel about this child and my circumstances. I may be “Woman Hear Me Roar” in other areas according to the militant feminists, but I was not necessarily strong enough for a child like this.

I also finally figured out that Roe v. Wade’s effects went far beyond the proverbial desperate woman determined to end her pregnancy either legally or illegally. The abortion mentality had so corrupted society that it even endangered children like my Karen after birth. Too many people, like the student in Supreme Court class, unfortunately viewed Karen as a tragedy to be prevented.

Medical progress or search and destroy?
In the late 1950s, a picture of the unborn baby using sound waves became the first technique developed to provide a window to the womb. Ultrasound in recent years has been used to save countless lives by showing women that they were carrying a living human being rather than the clump of cells often referred to in abortion clinics.

But while expectant parents now routinely and proudly show ultrasound pictures of their developing baby, there is a darker side to prenatal testing. Besides ultrasound, which can show some birth defects, blood tests like AFP testing and the Triple Screen to test for neural tube defects or Down Syndrome are now becoming a routine part of prenatal care. Amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling are also widely available tests to detect problems in the developing baby. It seems that every year, new testing techniques are tried and older ones refined in the quest to find birth defects prenatally.

97% of the time, women receive the good news that their baby seems fine; but the tests are not foolproof, and they can only test for hundreds of the thousands of known birth defects. Relatively few such birth defects can be treated in the womb at the present time. Some women want testing so that they can prepare for a child who has a birth defect, but when the tests do show a possible problem like Down Syndrome, up to 90% of women will abort.

While some hail prenatal testing as a way to prevent birth defects, the effects of such testing has led to what author Barbara Katz Rothman calls the “tentative pregnancy” in her 1993 book of the same name. Although Rothman calls herself pro-choice, her studies of women considering amniocentesis led to her conclusion that such testing has changed the normal maternal-child bonding in pregnancy and the experience of motherhood, usually for the worse.

“I might not be pregnant”
I observed this firsthand several years ago when I ran into an acquaintance and congratulated her on her obvious pregnancy. I was stunned when she replied, “Don’t congratulate me yet. I might not be pregnant.”

“Diane”, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, went on to explain that she was awaiting the results of an amniocentesis and said, “I know what you went through with your daughter but I can’t give up my life like that. If this (the baby) is Down’s, it’s gone.”

I reassured her that the test would almost surely show that her baby was ok, but I added that if the results were not what she expected I would like her to call me. I promised that I would give her any help she needed throughout the pregnancy and that my husband and I or even another couple would be willing to adopt her baby. She was surprised, as I later found out, both by my reaction and the information about adoption.

Diane gave birth to a healthy baby girl a few months later and apologized for her comments, saying that she probably would not have had an abortion anyway. But I understood her terrible anxiety. Society itself seems to have a rather schizophrenic attitude towards children with disabilities.

On one hand, people are inspired by the stories of people who have disabilities and support organizations like the Special Olympics; but, on the other hand, many people consider it almost irresponsible to bring a child with disabilities into the world to suffer when prenatal testing and abortion are so available.

But as the vast majority of parents who are either natural or adoptive parents of children with disabilities will attest, all children are born with both special gifts and special limitations. No child should be denied birth because of a disability or even a limited life expectancy.

Women who do abort after a diagnosis of a birth defect are also hurt. Besides depriving themselves of the special joys — which occur along with the difficulties — of loving and caring for such a child, these women often experience unresolved grief, guilt and second-guessing instead of the relief and peace they expect.

A few years ago, a local hospital which performs late-term abortions for birth defects asked a miscarriage and stillbirth counseling group to help with their distressed patients. The group declined, citing the fact that the most reassuring message they give grieving mothers is that there is nothing they did or didn’t do that caused the death of their babies. Obviously, that was not a statement they could make to mothers who abort. There is a very real difference between losing and terminating a child.

How many of these mothers knew before their abortions that, in practical terms, there has never been a better array of services and support for children with disabilities and their parents? Or that their children were dearly wanted by prospective adoptive parents? Such information might have been just the support they needed to choose life for their children.

Final thoughts
Despite the best medical care, my Karen died at the age of 5 and 1/2 months, but the impact of her life has lived on. At her funeral Mass, the priest talked about how this child who never walked or talked had transformed the lives of those who met her.

Especially mine.

After Karen died, I sat down and tried to put into words what Karen and all children with disabilities have to teach the rest of us. The following reflection was published in the National Down Syndrome Association newsletter in May, 1984.

THINGS NO TEACHER EVER TAUGHT
In 1982 my daughter, Karen, was born with Down Syndrome and a severe heart defect. Less than six months later she died of complications of pneumonia. Karen may have been retarded but she taught me things no teacher ever did.

Karen taught me:

That life isn’t fair — to anyone. That self-pity can be an incapacitating disease. That God is better at directing my life than I am. That there are more caring people in the world than I knew. That Down Syndrome is an inadequate description of a person. That I am not “perfect” either, just human. That asking for help and support is not a sign of weakness. That every child is truly a gift from God. That joy and pain can be equally deep. That you can never lose when you love. That every crisis contains opportunity for growth. That sometimes the victory is in trying rather than succeeding. That every person has a special purpose in life.

That I needed to worry less and celebrate more.