Saturday, January 22, 2011

blogging for choice...all choices

I missed the annual Blogging for Choice Day yet again this year (because that's what I do: I realize that a date is coming up after it has already passed.  It's a pattern of mine) but I'm posting some thoughts today anyway because, really, they need to be voiced.

I recently read the personal story of one family's painful experience with Trisomy 18.  Rates of Trisomy 21 - better known as Down Syndrome - amongst infants are far higher than T18, largely because it is suspected that the majority of T18 babies are naturally miscarried very early in pregnancy, and also because most T18 babies do not survive pregnancy. In truth, an extremely large number - not sure of the rate, actually - of T18 babies are therapeutically terminated during pregnancy shortly following diagnosis.

I can understand why a family might make such a choice.  Knowing that you are carrying a baby who is extremely unlikely to survive birth, and will assuredly not survive beyond one very challenging, entirely-in-hospital year of life would be unfathomably painful.  I cannot even begin to imagine carrying that burden while carrying that child.  I support a family's, a mother's, a woman's, choice.  But the essential thing to remember when we are talking about choices is that if there is, in fact, a choice, it means that there is an alternative action.  What is the alternative in this situation?

The alternative is to embrace the pregnancy, to embrace the possibility of meeting that child with a broken body, to embrace that tiny person as a part of the family and strive toward sharing some time, maybe a moment, maybe an hour, maybe - just maybe - a few days of life with that tiny person, that tiny spirit.  I support that choice, as well.  To do so would take a kind of strength - not more strength than the choice to end the pregnancy, but perhaps a rarer kind - that I suspect many of us do not have, and for that I applaud those families.

But what is the medical establishment's position on choice in this circumstance?  From the story that I read, from a fellow Canadian (and I'll link to it if I get the ok from the woman who writes the blog) our doctors are not supportive of the choice to continue the pregnancy.  This couple was repeatedly encouraged to terminate their son, as well as discouraged from pursuing every avenue to best enable their son to survive beyond birth and share some time earthside with his loving parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and brother.

This is not what supporting choice and honouring informed choice is supposed to be about.  If we support choice, it means we support it whether it is the choice we would make for ourselves or not.

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