Say what you want about pro-life incrementalism, but one thing about the movement to ban abortions at 20 weeks is undeniable: it has exposed just how entitled abortionistas feel to the “mainstream” mantle even as they refuse to give an inch from their extremism.
Last week, Cosmopolitan’s Liz Welch relayed the testimony of Vanessa Riley to the Texas legislature opposing the state’s new protections for pain-capable unborn children. Her “devastating” account is supposed to prove how these “harsh” laws “can prevent women from getting the care they need.
Riley defines herself as a pro-choicer committed to never having an abortion herself, and a willing, overjoyed mother-to-be:
I was secretly happy with every pregnancy side effect. When I got morning sickness, I was like, “Yes! I’m normal!” My mom sent me all of my old baby clothes, and I posted a picture of Gregg’s and my shoes with a pair of baby shoes in between on Facebook. That was our announcement. The gender ultrasound is generally done at 20 weeks, but we decided to pay out of pocket for one at 16 weeks, so we could tell our parents whether they were getting a grandson or granddaughter as their Christmas present.
That is, until she got the heart-wrenching news that her baby had spina bifida, and that, according to her doctor, “Most people, when they see the severity of this diagnosis, choose to terminate.”
Further consultation convinced her:
They talked about prenatal surgery, to put the spine back inside her body, and many more surgeries, shunts, catheters when she was born. She would die without medical intervention, the doctor said. We knew what we had to do.
Ours was a three-day abortion […] When I finally delivered, the following day, we asked for her footprints. They’re about as big as my thumb.
Most women who go through a late term abortion grieve silently. After the abortion, I just hated myself. I’d wake up in the morning, and go hide in a closet to cry because I did not want to wake Gregg up.
Then along came politicians who had the gall to suggest a cutoff point after which killing innocent, defenseless human babies shouldn’t be allowed, an outrage against which Riley just had to act:
As I got up to read my story, I looked the senators in the eye. One had placed a pair of baby shoes in front of him to remind us what we’re here for. He refused to look at me while I spoke.
I am devastated that my incredibly personal and painful story did not move these politicians […] Supporters of the law wave flags of black-and-white morality with no thought for complicated cases like ours. I hear their war cry of “Pro-Life!” and I think of what my little girl’s future would have been under these laws with two words — what life?
Answer: the life you took away from your daughter.
Yes, spina bifida is harrowing. Yes, parents in Riley’s situation deserve tremendous sympathy. Yes, it’s understandable that thoughts like hers would enter any parent’s mind. But in her indignation, Riley completely ignores one key fact: spina bifida is not a death sentence.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the severity of the disease can vary widely from case to case, from “little or no noticeable disability” to full paralysis, but “with the right care, most people affected by spina bifida will be able to grow up to lead full and productive lives.” They provide extensive information on living with the condition. Contrary to the impression Riley gives with her doctor’s quote, they determine that:
… [m]any adolescents and young adults with spina bifida report a high level of satisfaction with their health-related quality of life, are entering and succeeding at college life, and are participating in sports and other recreational activities.
And they publish the story of twelve-year-old Clark, whose mother Nancy attests:
He walks with braces. He takes piano lessons and will start guitar lessons soon. He loves watching college football and he’s the assistant coach of his younger brother’s soccer team. He likes to hang out with his friends. Although spina bifida impacts his life every day, Clark does not let it define who he is.
This July, Minneapolis-St. Paul NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported on Shane Swanson, a twelve-year-old with spina bifida who has broken records for disabled athletes:
His records are evening [sic] more amazing considering last fall, he spent days in the hospital. A routine surgery turned into a 65-day stay in the hospital because of an infection. But he fought his way back just like he always has.
“He’s got all the abilities in the world. He just gets around wheeling wheels instead of walking like most people,” said Wendy Swanson, Shane’s mother.
Shane says it’s his dream to swim in the Paralympics. His coach says his dedication to the sport could get him there.
“I really think the sky’s the limit for Shane,” Shane’s coach said. “His progress has been remarkable, coming through surgery being a novice swimming, he’s progressed very rapidly through his dedication.”
That, Vanessa Riley, is “what life.” That is what your “little girl’s future [could] have been under these laws.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Riley’s daughter would have been this fortunate. But there’s also no guarantee she wouldn’t have fared that well, or even better. And Riley took that chance away from her – trading a tragic possibility for a tragic certainty.
That is why her story didn’t move the politicians to back down. Rather than giving “no thought for complicated cases like [Riley’s],” they understood what she failed to even mention: that every child deserves at least a chance, which not even an anguished parent’s merciful intentions can outweigh.
But according to the Vanessa Rileys and Liz Welches of the world, it’s callous to protect all of our young, including the ones whose own parents have given up on them. And we’re the extremists?