Monday, May 29, 2006

Frivolous Late Term Abortions

A British site, Daily Mail, posted this story yesterday about late term abortions in the U.K (excerpts below):

The ethical storm over abortions has been renewed as it emerged that terminations are being carried out for minor, treatable birth defects.

Late terminations have been performed in recent years because the babies had club feet, official figures show. Other babies were destroyed because they had webbed fingers or extra digits. Such defects can often be corrected with a simple operation or physiotherapy.

The revelation sparked fears that abortion is increasingly being used to satisfy couples' desire for the 'perfect' baby.

A leading doctor said people were right to be 'totally shocked' that abortions were being carried out for such conditions. Campaigners warned we are turning into a society that can no longer tolerate imperfection.

Ethical groups fear parents are opting for abortions because they are not told of the support and help available if they continued with the pregnancy.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that between 1996 and 2004, 20 babies were aborted after 20 weeks because they had a club foot. It is one of the most common birth defects in Britain, affecting one in 1,000 babies each year. That means around 600 to 700 babies are born annually in the UK with the problem, which causes the feet to point downwards and in severe cases can cause a limp.

However it can be corrected without surgery using splints, plaster casts and boots. Naomi Davis, a leading paediatrician at Manchester Children's Hospital who specialists in correcting club feet, said: 'I think it is reasonable to be totally shocked that abortion is being offered for this. 'It is entirely treatable. I can only think it is lack of information.'

Figures also show that four babies were aborted since 1996 because they were found to have webbed fingers or extra digits, which can be sorted out with simply surgery.

Remarkable pictures recently have revealed how at just 23 weeks baby in the womb appears to smile, yawn and flinch in pain.

Read the rest of the story here.
The story continues, discussing babies being aborted for other minor ailments such as cleft palate.

This is occurring in the U.K. which has greater restrictions on abortion than the U.S. One wonders how many women here are being pressured by their own fears of the unknown because their baby might have a disability or even by their doctors to abort. This may be one reason why some doctors object to the constant prenatal testing that is expected these days. Often these tests are inconclusive yet generate a great deal of fear.

The U.S. today (and apparently the U.K., also) faces a schizophrenic-type conflict in values. On the one hand, laws are passed such as ADA to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against. Programs are designed to ensure that children with disabilities are educated properly. Support groups are founded to help parents of children with more serious handicaps. Technologies and surgery techniques are devised to improve the lives of the disabled. Now surgery can even be performed in utero for some conditions like spina bifida; recall the incredible photo by Michael Clancy? On the other hand, we tell the disabled by our desire to abort any late term baby that is less than perfect that if we had only known of their defect a little sooner, we'd have killed them right off.

Especially frightening was the fact that these abortions were for minor, correctable defects. None of these were for horrible problems.

That leads one to wonder about more serious handicaps. Do we abort the blind? Where would the world have been without the music of Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles? the works of John Milton? the teaching ability of Annie Sullivan? What about the deaf--do we abort them? Would the world have been better off without the swimming of Terence Parkin, the acting of Marlee Matlin, or the painting of Goya? What about Helen Keller who straddled both worlds--blind and deaf? What about the dyslexic, the hyperactive, those with spina bifida? The list is endless. In fact, a partial list of famous people with disabilities appears on

This story hits me hard. I have had friends and acquaintances with disabilities. I have known parents with handicapped children very well. Not one of the disabled people I have known wished they had never been born. The parents of handicapped children did not grieve that their child had come into the world. I, however, did know a woman who had been informed that her baby might have a minor disability and was consequently pressured by her husband and doctor to abort---she regretted her decision even years later.

As this post began with a quote, so will it end:
The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped.
~Hubert Humphrey

Hat tip to Paul Smith, Jr. for his post on this topic.


At 5/30/2006 3:27 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

This is pretty shocking, but keep in mind the time frame. 20 cases over 8 years could all come from one wacky doctor. I have no information to prove or disprove this notion, but the point is simply that 20 cases in no way indicates a trend. There are always going to be fringe nutjobs.

At 5/30/2006 4:55 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Yeah, but Andy, that were 20 people murdered for club foot, a curable problem. I doubt it was one doctor. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm having trouble visualizing one doctor seeing so many incidences of club foot that he could have aborted 20 in a few years.

What disturbs me most is that in the UK they have many more restrictions on abortions than here. Here late term abortions, even partial birth abortions, are allowed at any time for any reason. That tells me that this frivolity is probably much much worse here.

I don't understand how we can be so callous to the disabled as to want to kill them off so cavalierly. I have a real heart for the handicapped and situations like this just about break it.

At 5/30/2006 7:51 PM, Anonymous MarkNS said...

As the parent of a 15 yr old daughter with severe cerebral palsy, I am disgusted but not surprised by this story. The world is full of selfish, morally bereft people who blithely justify their acts. Ironically, most of these people are left-wing idealogues who profess to speak for the down-trodden. Hypocrites and narcissists, the lot of them.

At 5/30/2006 8:26 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Wow, Mark, I guess you know exactly where I'm coming from. I was concerned that people just wouldn't "get it". Thank you for sharing this with us.

At 5/30/2006 8:32 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

OK, 2nd comment, 4th word in is supposed to be "there" not "that". It just popped out at me. I really hope I don't usually sound so stupid.

At 5/30/2006 9:18 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

My point is not that aborting 20 babies for having clubbed foot is ok. I'm just trying to add perspective to the global argument. Just as we get angry when people talk up the Abu Grabe scandal as a means to rally people against the war, perfectly sane folks in favor of abortion will do the same if this story is used as an anti-abortion rallying cry.

It's terrible and should stop, and hopefully the story will help in that capacity. At the same time, the anti-abortion community needs to take a deep breath and recognize that these are exceptional instances.

At 5/31/2006 3:32 PM, Anonymous JannyMae said...

"It's terrible and should stop, and hopefully the story will help in that capacity. At the same time, the anti-abortion community needs to take a deep breath and recognize that these are exceptional instances." -- Andy

I hope you're right, that these are exceptional instances, but the fact that they are happening at all, illustrates the 'direction' we are headed on the issue of abortion. The value of human life degrades with each successive snuffing of an unborn human. I will be surprised if abortions for sex selection do not start becoming common.

At 6/01/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Oh, I'm sure it happens already in the U.S. It surely does in other countries eg India and China where there is incredible pressure to give birth to boys, not girls.

Remember the story in NY Times, I think it was, of a woman who was supposed to have triplets but decided to selectively reduce down to one so she didn't have to spend weekend in Costco?

We have no restrictions on abortion unlike Europe so we don't have any stats to my knowledge of why women are having them later in their pregnancies. It very well could be for sex selection or minor birth defects or convenience or anything at all. It's all legal.


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