Many obstetricians admit to having very little training in counseling women in a crisis pregnancy situation. It was evident in my own crisis pregnancy. The many specialists we were exposed to had a limited knowledge of what it means to live with a special needs child. Worse case scenarios were given without any balance or reference to positive scenarios.
Most women who find themselves in this crisis situation report the doctor presents the diagnosis in the most negative light. New mom’s who were surprised by their newborn’s diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome in the delivery room, report the health care professionals approached them with the news in the most negative tone.
There is no wonder the abortion of Down’s Syndrome babies is at a record high. Society is given a skewed picture of Down’s Syndrome due to the dated misconceptions of doctor’s who have not had the privilege of experiencing these individuals and their families first hand. Some families who gave birth to their babies with Down’s Syndrome, give them up for adoption immediately, due to the limited and outdated information they receive.
Let’s talk about genetic counseling
Genetic counseling when a woman is pregnant, is Not Preventative! True preventative measures to genetic disorders would take place before a woman becomes pregnant.
In my opinion, genetic counseling is a valid resource, however it should be approached prior to marriage. When both the male and female have their blood tested, the genetic counselor is able to help you identify if either or both of you are carriers of a genetic disorder. Then the couple has the opportunity to discuss what responsibility they will take to either get pregnant, or not to get pregnant.
Genetic counseling, while pregnant, should then serve as an opportunity to prepare yourself for the infant-not an opportunity to take a life.
There are three genetic scenarios which cause Down’s Syndrome specifically. The most common is Trisomy 21, which is known as a “genetic fluke”. Couples who conceive an infant with Trisomy 21 are not genetic carriers of Down’s Syndrome. In fact, the statistics for that couple of having another infant with Trisomy 21 is a mere 1%.
Even though Trisomy 21 would not have shown up in genetic counseling prior to conceiving, we took responsibility of a life when we chose to conceive. A genetic counselor should then offer resources and support to these families.
My responsibility to others in crisis
During my crisis pregnancy, I often thought about other women in similar situations. Having the experience in the field of social work provided me with personal tools to discover resources and emotional support on my own. What about the women who were given a crisis-pregnancy diagnosis without being given any tools to cope or make educated decisions?
I wrote a detailed letter to the Perinatologist’s office of professionals, genetic counselors, and our obstetrician. I made suggestions for resources of counseling, clergy, crisis pregnancy centers, and families of special needs. These letters were received with positive responses. The Perinatologist called us with his personal apology for the pressure of abortion I received, as well as offering to spread my letter throughout his office and incorporate my suggestions. My obstetrician referred a handful of women to me over the years who were given crisis diagnosis, and they came to visit me and my newborn at our home.
These are positive steps health care professionals can take to support women and families in pregnancy crisis. There are so many positive resources available through local regional centers, Special Olympics, crisis pregnancy centers and churches who can offer education in community support as well as families who are willing to share and support other families anticipating special needs.
The truth is, most individuals with Down’s Syndrome are not institutionalized as the specialist told me. Most of these individuals have mild to moderate cognitive delays, and are able to play a vital role in family and community life. Certainly there are difficult times, but there are many more wonderful times. Pass that good news along!
The sad news
Amniocentesis is known as an invasive procedure, causing risk to the infant’s life. Many women have opted not to have the procedure due to the risk. But recent blood tests can now give a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome in the first trimester. Thus, the statistics of women aborting these precious lives is a staggering 9 out of 10!
Chuck Colson states it well,
Medical tests that separate “acceptable” children from the “unacceptable,” teach us to view our offspring as consumer items. If they aren’t good enough, if they’re flawed in some way, we should simply abort them and try again. It’s the biological equivalent of taking them back to the store.
You can see Chuck Colson’s article via Death By Medical Breakthrough.
My heart for you
Every time I tell my story publicly, I am mindful of women in the audience who are living with the pain and remorse of abortion. Please know, I do not condemn you. My heart goes out to you. I want to offer you a resource filled with encouragement, and rich resources for your personal grief. Please check out Focus on the Family, specifically these pages: Several years ago I had an abortion. I though Id get over it quickly and move on with my life, but my feelings of guilt and remorse have only increased.. As you scroll to the bottom of this specific page, you will find a host of resources and encouragement for your need.
If you, or a loved one find themselves in a crisis pregnancy, please contact your local crisis pregnancy center. These centers exist to offer you emotional, physical, and sometimes financial support for your situation. If you are unable to locate a crisis pregnancy center in your area, contact your local church for a referral. You may also appreciate this website, chock full of encouraging stories from families: Benotafraid.net an outreach to parents with a poor prenatal diagnosis.
What you can do
If you know someone who chose life-will you embrace them? If you see a family with a special needs child-will you love on them? Your support and inclusion of these families helps build inclusive and loving communities for all of these children who have been fearfully and wonderfully made!
(You can read my personal story about a crisis-pregnancy diagnosis and the birth of our baby who has Down’s Syndrome on this website under “Anticipate Grace/when life and belief collide”-a 4 part story.)