Friday, August 22, 2008

Astounding news

I would just like to acknowledge how breathtakingly difficult it must be for parents, who have had to struggle to reach viability (I hear it's actually as early as 23 weeks now in some babies' cases??) to even give their baby a chance at taking a breath outside the womb, to now hear in the latest local news that a bill is being thrashed out right now about legalised abortion up to 24 weeks gestation.

I will NEVER judge someone in any position when it is as emotion-charged, and with so many variables to consider. However, I do have a real time getting my head around the fact that one woman can be in a bed convalescing and praying each day that her leaking amniotic fluid still replenishes to keep her baby safe enough to grow. Inch by inch, hour by hour. Then in the next bed, one day soon it may be likely that a woman has been addmitted and induced for a planned termination - at the same gestation.

I'm ... without speech on this one.

My head reels with the intricate details that they are probably going over in Parliament, one by one (and I hope to God they think of everything if they are going to pass this). There are many, but some stand out more than others. Namely, the fact that, after 20 weeks, a formal burial and also a birth and death certificate for the baby is required - what are they going to do, allow an unwanted pregnancy to go without the same?? Surely not.... There are women I know, and I know of many more, who, on the advice of medical staff, have terminated before 20 weeks "to avoid all the rigmarole and paperwork and ramifications" a very much loved and wanted baby because of abnormalities incompatible with life. These mothers now go through life without a birth or death certificate for their very real, very here, yet legally unacknowledged bub. Now, are they really saying that, viability tightrope aside, a baby who manages to gestate this far (and in my world, yes, babies manage to make it that far) and whose life is going to be cut short at the hands of the decision-maker who in other situations would actually be their advocate for survival, is not going to be legally recognised as having been born? Or are they? Either way, whether the birth and death certificates are remaining or not, what a throughly heart-wrenching thing for others to realise is happening in society around them.

Look, I know, it's me trying to be Pollyanna again. But why aren't they considering the fact that so many parents are living with pre-term stillbirth and, in some cases, red tape that prevented them getting these very symbolic and cherished pieces of paper?? Will they? Will they think? I realise it's being set up to protect first and foremost the mother. Ok. I think I can accept that, for, as I said, I cannot judge anyone in this position (somewhere I have not - yet - been myself, but somewhere I could always be with each and every one of my pregnancies, past and future). I cannot say that I would do as others would decide, and vice versa. This goes a little beyond that, though. Surely someone will think of the wider community here and take that into consideration too. If it is now going to be so "easy" to terminate at such a late point in a pregnancy, please let some things change for parents who are being coaxed into terminating before 20 weeks then. Are they going to have the extra few weeks too? Or are those who have been told the abnormalities are terminal and unsurvivable outside the womb already damned and therefore deemed best to end their torment sooner rather than later?

Who ultimately decides? Yes, yes, they are saying there will be extensive counselling provided for the woman, but how far will they go? Will they discuss all the growth that has happened to that point? Will they take her to a NICU and show her 24 weekers with parents who cannot take their eyes off their struggling children as they are hooked up to machines? Will they let parents who have lost a child at that gestation talk to these mothers?? Is this the extent of the counselling they are considering? I doubt it...

If they are just selectively reporting the facts and this Bill is actually being passed in order for women to have a few extra weeks to decide whether to keep a child who has birth defects or other abnormalities that are terminal or severe, then I can come around to it. Marginally. But if this is also going to be something allowed for those women who are "lucky" enough to not even realise they are pregnant until they're halfway (apparently, in some strange mystical faraway land from mine, that does happen more often than I care to imagine) and they do not want to keep the pregnancy, then somebody had better stop me from raging up to Canberra to pose some scenarios to them, involving people who are out there every day struggling to get their babies to a size and gestation for the best (or the only) possible chance of survival.

It literally does take all my breath away.

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