Issues

NPR omits discussion of preborn child’s humanity from print version of story on pregnancy loss

burial, miscarriage

A recent NPR Life Kit article, “What to Do if You – or Someone You Love – Is Going Through Pregnancy Loss,” touched on some key points of the grieving process after miscarriage and stillbirth while glossing over or failing to mention others. Interestingly, some of the “missing” important content was verbalized during the 22-minute audio version of the article but was excluded from the much shorter written story. The article was both narrated and written by the two hosts and executive producers of NATAL, which bills itself as “a docuseries about having a baby while black.”

What the story got right

The article correctly noted the surprisingly high prevalence of miscarriage, which is defined as a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation, and which is estimated to occur in 10-15% of known pregnancies. Far less common, but still occurring, is stillbirth, the loss of a preborn child anytime after 20 weeks gestation and prior to birth. It is also true that “the National Institutes of Health estimates that black women are twice as likely to suffer both early pregnancy loss and stillbirths than white women.”

READ: Ben Shapiro’s sister Abby reveals heartbreaking miscarriage: ‘I consider myself a mom’

The article effectively conveyed the shame and blame that many women suffer after a pregnancy loss, wondering whether the loss was their fault or could have somehow been prevented. Further, oftentimes those surrounding a grieving mother, from her friends to partner to extended family, may themselves feel at a loss as to how best to show up for and support her.

The authors used the stories of women who have experienced loss, as well as advice from a bereavement doula and a psychotherapist, to suggest four action items for grieving mothers and those who care about them. Mothers and their support systems were encouraged to “Acknowledge the Loss, Make space for Grief and Grace, Be Present,” and to “Explore Your Care Options,” which might include things like working with a trained bereavement doula or therapist.

Missed areas of opportunity

While the women who shared their personal experiences of miscarriage and stillbirth for the audio version consistently used the word “baby” in reference to their preborn child, the written article primarily referred to “pregnancy loss” without acknowledging the humanity of the person who was lost. And while the audio version included women who suffered loss specifically mentioning the importance of memorializing their lost child or children through gestures like lighting a candle, having mementos or reminders of the baby around the house, or even just saying the child’s name, the written version neglected to mention this necessary step in healing altogether.

These omissions, whether intentional or not, serve to highlight an uncomfortable elephant in the room when it comes to discussing the need to acknowledge the very real loss that occurs following a miscarriage or stillbirth. Namely, a culture that dehumanizes preborn children in order to justify, and even promote, the abortion of those who are unwanted by their biological parents will necessarily fail to support women who lose children while still in the womb.

While some people will understand the importance of supporting the hurting mother, an adequate grasp on the depth of the loss can only come from understanding the objectivity of a preborn person’s value and worth, whether or not that child reaches some arbitrary gestational age limit, “consciousness,” or other similar factors.

Perhaps most tragically, in a society that considers abortion just one more option among many equally acceptable pregnancy outcomes, many women who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth will find themselves desperately unequipped to give words to their loss or to know how to treat their baby’s remains if the child is delivered at home. Grieving mothers deserve better.

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