A Canadian couple made international headlines when they complained about how difficult it was to get a late-term abortion in Quebec. The woman was 35 weeks pregnant, and tried getting an abortion at two hospitals — which both refused — before she was finally able to have the procedure. People understandably were shocked and outraged at the thought of abortion an almost-full term preborn baby, and so the anonymous woman is now responding to the controversy. Her reason for having the abortion? Because the baby would have been disabled.
In an interview with “The Windsor Star,” she defended the procedure, saying, “We want everyone to know the baby was having problems.” She explained that the pregnancy progressed normally through the beginning. They found out they were having a boy, their first child. No abnormalities were found at the 20 week anatomy scan. But when she was seven months along, doctors made an awful discovery: the baby was abnormally small, and had skeletal malformations that doctors believed was caused by a genetic mutation. Yet doctors “couldn’t tell us what the baby had, they were guessing,” the woman said.
So the couple went to get a second opinion. They were told that the baby would never walk. “It was really a shock to us. They said it’s a rare disease and that he may need operations of the spine, medical interventions, operations… but they couldn’t say which operations. We researched and watched videos of other cases, and there aren’t many,” she explained. “We couldn’t stand it that our baby would suffer like these babies. Our termination choice was serious.”
At 30 weeks, they tried to get an abortion. But two hospitals turned them away, based on the Quebec College of Physicians guidelines. These state that abortions after 23 weeks of pregnancy should only be allowed in cases of “serious congenital anomalies” or “exceptional clinical situations” and this baby’s disability did not qualify. But the couple was so determined to get an abortion that they hired a lawyer and had the abortion at 35 weeks of pregnancy at an unnamed hospital in Montreal.
Dr. Jennifer Blake, chief executive officer of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, defended the hospitals’ decision to refuse the late-term abortion. “People do have their right to practise within their own conscience and to make referrals to someone else if their patient is requesting something they can’t accommodate,” she said. “We don’t know what the anomaly (in the Quebec case) is. You can image that at 35 weeks, whether or not it’s legal, as a profession we have to behave in a way that is moral and responsible. And, at 35 weeks, a baby is capable of survival. We’re not talking an abortion of a fetus that has no ability to live outside its mother’s body.”
It’s unfathomable that a couple would have a late-term abortion solely because they didn’t think a life with a disability was worth living, and especially not a late-term abortion at 35 weeks. If continuing to carry the baby was truly so horrible for them, the woman could have delivered the baby through an induction or a c-section, and then placed the baby for adoption. With a c-section, the procedure would have been over in less than an hour.
A late-term abortion takes days. The video below, narrated by former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino, explains:
The most common late-term abortion procedure is an induction abortion. The abortionist will inject digoxin or potassium chloride through the mother’s belly into the womb, targeting the baby’s heart or torso. If he misses the baby and injects the chemical into the bloodstream, the baby will still die… but it will take longer. After the injection, laminaria sticks will be inserted into the woman’s cervix to begin the process of dilation.
The next day, the woman has to return to have the laminaria replaced, and an ultrasound will be performed to make sure the baby has died. Sometime on day three or four, the woman will give birth to her dead baby. If the baby does not come out whole, the abortionist will use clamps and forceps to remove the rest of the baby, piece by piece.
How this is preferable, and will prevent “suffering,” is difficult to comprehend.
It does not sound, from the hospitals’ refusal to abort, as if this woman’s baby had a terminal diagnosis; it ultimately came down to the fact that the little boy would potentially have a disability. And his mother uses the fact that he had a disability as the excuse, justifying the decision to have an abortion at 35 weeks pregnant, when the baby easily could have survived outside of the womb, as if the fact that the baby had “problems” makes it acceptable.
People with disabilities do not lead worthless lives full of pain and suffering. Someone who cannot walk, who may need to have surgery or medical treatment, still deserves life just as much as any able-bodied person does. And aborting a preborn child purely because they will have a disability, when they otherwise could survive outside of the womb, isn’t just horrifying.
It’s ableist and wrong.