Five-year-old Khovny Vignery owes her name and her life to doctors Stephanie and Dmitry Dukhovny. Both work at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. OHSU recently announced the expansion of its fetal care program, which treated Khovny for hydrops — a life-threatening condition in which fluids accumulate in a fetus’s body — while she was still in utero.
But Khovny’s parents could have gone to OHSU for a very different outcome. They could have gone to OHSU to end Khovny’s life. “We care for people experiencing pregnancy loss as well as medical and surgical termination of pregnancy for all reasons, including fetal anomaly (abnormality),” states OHSU’s website.
At one hospital campus, doctors fight to save preborn children with conditions that doctors at the hospital’s other campus would use as justification for their homicide. The only difference between the children being cared for by OHSU’s fetal medicine program and those being aborted is that the former are wanted by their biological parents, and the latter are not.
But should wantedness really determine whether someone lives or dies? According to some, the answer is yes.
The Los Angeles Times recently published an opinion piece by Victoria Reyes, who was conceived in rape. Reyes has “achieved many accomplishments — a Ph.D. from Princeton, a tenure-track job at a research university, fellowships, grants, awards and two children.” Yet Reyes seems to argue that she herself should have been aborted, because her mother at times expressed not having wanted her, and because “focusing on what I’ve achieved says nothing about what my birth cost [my mother] — the trauma etched into her body forever. The stretch marks, the mental anguish. The years, the decades of pain and struggle.”
Are stretch marks really a legitimate reason to end the life of an innocent child? What about past trauma, such as that inflicted by rape? Or a potentially difficult future — for mother or child? Or yes, even alleged unwantedness?
The fact is, there is never a valid reason to kill a preborn child. The solution to Reyes’s concerns is not her own non-existence — it’s care and therapy for both her and her mother to help them cope with their trauma and struggles. Reyes seems not to see the value in her own life (although her children would likely disagree), or feels that its value is outweighed by the struggles she believes her existence has created for her mother. But those are in and of themselves signs of child abuse trauma and/or clinical depression, both of which can be treated and overcome.
Reyes’s life has just as much value as Khovny’s — whether Reyes recognizes it or not.
Humanity is not conferred by one’s wantedness, or the circumstances under which one was conceived, or one’s future prospects. And every human has inalienable rights from the first moment of existence; the foremost of these — the foundation of every other right — is the right to live. No circumstance justifies its denial.
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