Human Rights

Mom says doctor showed ‘lack of interest in the life’ of preborn daughter who might have cystic fibrosis

abortions,abortion, late-term, aborted

A recent Verily magazine article offered a look into one pregnant mother’s troubling experience of being aggressively pressured by a doctor to determine whether her husband was a cystic fibrosis carrier, so that she could decide whether she wanted to abort her preborn child in case the child might have CF.

Mary Rose Somarriba described herself as “a happy mom to four kids — three already born and one on the way.” She made clear from the outset that her “pregnancy was not a ‘mistake.'” Naturally, then, she was upset when she had a disturbing exchange with a doctor at her 20-week ultrasound appointment.

After her scan, the tech told her it was routine for a doctor to come in at the end to discuss the results. But Somarriba was shocked when the doctor who came in repeatedly urged her to consider genetic testing for her husband since Somarriba was a known carrier for cystic fibrosis, a “genetic disorder that causes problems with breathing and digestion,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cystic fibrosis is often referred to as a “terminal” condition, though the average life span of those who have it is expected to be into the mid-40s. And now, with a revolutionary new drug treatment known as Trikafta — which, as Live Action News previously reported, “works at the cellular level, forcing the malfunctioning CFTR protein to work as it is supposed to” — some people with CF are living their lives practically symptom-free.

READ: Study: Nearly 95% of preborn children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis through prenatal screening are aborted

Somarriba was disturbed that the doctor’s fixation on testing for her husband seemed to be so that the couple could decide whether to abort their baby who might have cystic fibrosis, since neither testing nor the ultrasound would be able to say for sure. “If we don’t want innocent people killed on death row, how could I consider ending the pregnancy for a child who I don’t even know for certain is diseased?” Somarriba wrote. “And when did being diseased become a crime?”

The doctor pressured Somarriba again and again. “There was an awkwardly high amount of tension in the room. I had just watched my living, squirming baby for a half hour, learned she’s a girl, and practically named her in my head,” she said. “And here was a doctor, suggesting the possibility of CF would be essential information for me to determine whether to continue this pregnancy.”

In that moment, Somarriba said:

I suddenly felt a strong sadness for people with cystic fibrosis. It broke my heart to think that there are people (like this doctor, it would seem) who think people with cystic fibrosis are accidents of existence, the mistake of parents who failed to get CF screening tests and dutifully remove them from the gene pool, rather than people with lives worth living.

I was starting to sense not just a judgment against people with CF but also against people who don’t get their CF screenings — a sense from the doctor that my husband and I were being irresponsible by carrying this pregnancy with the unknowns that seemed to trouble her.

“It’s not easy on a child or parent to live with CF. But I am in no position to determine whose life is worth living, and I welcome the unknowns of parenthood as a part of what I’m taking on,” she noted. “If I had CF, I would certainly hope my mom would do her best to take care of me, and I aspire to be that mom as well.”

Looking back on the unpleasant incident, Somarriba wondered if whether 20-week ultrasound appointments have become “a halfway point of offering abortion one last time” to those carrying babies with potential or diagnosed conditions, and if so, she said, “we should be given a warning that it’s coming. Because if I could have put it in writing to avoid this entire conversation, I would have.”

Somarriba feared that vulnerable women receiving similar pressure from that doctor would be convinced that abortion would be their best option, saying she was “struck by [the doctor’s] apparent lack of interest in the life of a person with CF and presumably other serious conditions, in how fully human and rich such a life can be. I know this doctor is not alone in her thinking. Indeed, our culture (myself included) is deeply uncomfortable with the idea that weakness and suffering are a part of human life.”

Sadly, Somarriba’s experience is not an isolated one. Many women have reported encouragement and even pressure from healthcare professionals to end the very wanted pregnancies of their preborn children who received a prenatal diagnosis. Despite the perhaps misguided compassion of some, every child’s life has dignity, regardless of whether he or she was ‘planned,’ and whether or not he or she will be ‘healthy.’

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