First of all, it should be said that just because something is “legal” does not necessarily make it “right.” For example, an unscrupulous salesman might sell unnecessary items to a senior citizen by preying on his trusting nature. It might be legal – after all, the senior is capable of making his own decisions – but nevertheless the whole notion is not correct from a moral point of view. And somehow deep down inside, the salesman probably knows it.
Similarly, in this country, abortion is legal through a certain period of pregnancy; yet I would argue that legality does not make it right. My fear is that there is an equating of “legal” with “right”; the notion that “it is legal, so it must be OK.”
My wife and I were transformed by an experience several years ago. While she was pregnant with our second child, she had an attack from a disease which damaged her kidneys. The recommended treatment was several doses of harsh chemotherapy.
Medical protocol would typically recommend a therapeutic abortion in that circumstance. We elected to not have an abortion, to give the child a chance at life.
Our baby boy, John, was born on Oct. 2, 1997, 12 weeks early and at a weight of 1 lb. 5 oz. He had lung and other medical problems due to his small size.
He spent 8 months in the hospital’s Newborn ICU, until he was healthy enough to come home. Because he was still on a respirator, we had licensed nurses come to our home to help with his care.
One night, with a nurse by his side, John’s heart and breathing suddenly stopped. In spite of CPR and all our efforts to revive him, he was gone. An autopsy revealed no apparent cause of death.
In spite of the heartache and pain at John’s death, we have never once regretted giving him a chance at life. Indeed we consider life all the more precious.
A short time after John’s death, my wife had complete kidney failure and underwent dialysis treatments. Later, she was be able to receive a kidney transplant from her sister; the transplant went well and she is now very healthy.
We have not been able to have other children ourselves, but have had the opportunity to adopt three babies – a girl (now 11), a boy (now 6), and a girl (11 months).
Our interaction with our children’s natural mothers has been mixed, with some it has been very extensive and with others very limited. But we are very grateful that each of these women put the child’s opportunity for life ahead of her own convenience.
As I read and listen to the debate over abortion, my emotions run very high. And I wonder what I can do.
Partly inspired by the current debate, my wife and I have recently re-initiated the process to be approved to adopt again. It is our hope that we can make a difference in the life of a child.
My goal in writing this is not to change the world. But it is to make a difference, perhaps just to one.
Perhaps there is a girl, pregnant and scared, who will be inspired to give her child a chance at life. Or maybe she has a friend who will be motivated to help this girl – to let her know that both she and her unborn child are valued, and that adoption can be a wonderful alternative to abortion.
Or perhaps a family might decide, like ours, that they really do have room in their hearts and home for a child and adopt.
My religious tradition teaches that God endowed human beings with two great gifts: life itself and the agency to choose or direct one’s life (though choices have consequences, and one does not necessarily get to choose those).
Similarly, the founding of our country was based on the “unalienable” rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In some respects, the fundamental issue in the abortion debate is which of these – agency or life – has preeminence. Certainly each of us may have an opinion, but perhaps the true answer is “both.”
I’m convinced that if we look beyond ourselves, they aren’t mutually exclusive.