What I Don’t Understand: Abortion and IVF

July 17, 2012 · 37 comments

in The Boy & Down Syndrome

Yesterday, as Nathan’s viral photo approached 40,000 shares, I came across two similar news stories in the UK’s Daily Mail and Telegraph. The two stories were about the high rate of termination of babies conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) who were diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome.

My first thought was, “Well, that’s no surprise.” My second thought was a knee-jerk instinct to judge the parents who chose to terminate their babies. I immediately assumed they were shallow people who weren’t willing to accept an imperfect child.

But then I remembered all of my friends who’ve undergone IVF, and something didn’t feel right about what I was thinking.

Here in the United States, IVF is expensive – in most cases, between $10,000-15,000 per treatment cycle – and most states don’t mandate insurance coverage of IVF (in the UK, IVF typically costs between £4000 and £8000). There are no guarantees with IVF, either – pregnancy is achieved in less than 1/3 of treatments (29.4% per the most recent CDC report in 2009), and live births less than 1/4 of the time (22.4%).  As a result, many couples undergo multiple rounds of IVF in order to have just one child, bringing the cost even higher.

I’ve known couples who took out bank loans, borrowed money from their parents, and/or sold their belongings for IVF treatments – with no guarantee of a baby. I will be honest and say that I don’t quite understand that line of thinking. Mr. Andi and I struggled for a time with infertility, but we determined from the outset that IVF was not an option for us – our thinking was that so many children in the world need loving parents that we’d rather put our money into adoption than IVF. But not everyone I know feels that way, and a baby is a baby no matter how it is conceived.

Why do couples go to so much trouble and expense, knowing that their odds of having a baby are less than one in four? I have to assume it’s because they REALLY REALLY want a baby (and that’s been the case for the couples I’ve known who’ve utilized IVF). After going through all of the stress and expense of IVF and finally – FINALLY! – conceiving, does it make sense that these couples would then choose to abort the baby because he or she was diagnosed with Down syndrome?

Yet it does happen, as the two UK stories make clear. Why?

When people start down the IVF road, it’s pretty unlikely that they hope and dream of having a child with a disability. But I refuse to believe that all of the people in those stories who chose to abort did so because their desire for a perfect child was so great that they wouldn’t accept a slightly different outcome.

I was discussing IVF treatment with a good friend of mine a couple of years ago – she and her husband had undergone IVF (unsuccessfully) and were hoping to adopt. Because I’m not a fan of IVF, I tried to understand why she didn’t consider adoption first. Her response was something to the effect that as they were navigating the path of infertility treatments, IVF seemed like just the next step in the process, because the doctor always assumed they wanted to keep going.

If my friend had conceived a baby who was then diagnosed with Down syndrome, would the doctor have assumed she was willing to abort, as well?

People who are pro-choice insist that women should be able to decide if they want to have a baby and when, and because of that assertion, they believe abortion should remain legal (I disagree, but my beliefs aren’t relevant to my point here). What’s different about abortion of IVF babies with chromosomal abnormalities is that these babies ARE wanted – desperately. So why are their mothers aborting them?

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Tell me what you think. Are these moms shallow and superficial? Have they been led astray by bad information from their doctors? Or is something else at play here?

Help me to understand.

If you enjoyed this post, download my FREE eBook, There's Sunshine Behind the Cloudsa resource for special needs parents. There’s Sunshine Behind the Clouds: Surviving the Early Years as a Special Needs Mom is for every mother of a child with special needs who is at the beginning of the journey, struggling to gain her footing on ever-shifting sands. It focuses on how to not only survive the emotional roller coaster of special needs parenting, but enjoy the ride.
Kelley July 17, 2012 at 9:58 am

I think it all has to do with the fear of the unknown for these women. I personally can’t imagine going through all of that IVF stuff and then deciding to abort based on an extra chromosome, because as you said these are people that really want children but then again did they really if they couldn’t accept the child with an extra chromosome. Because here is how I look at it, the baby could be born “perfectly normal” but then something happens and they get diagnosis with Autsim, Cancer, have a stroke that causes cognitive issues, have an accident and become paralazyed. My cousin was perfectly fine until the age of 5 when he was diagnosis with muscular dystrophy. He outlived the doctors expections of only making it to 16. He lived into his 20′s. There is not a test out there that could tell me how much “Sunshine” my daughter would bring into our family or that she would learn to “fake” cry, make her sisters laugh so hard they almost have an accident, help my friend after the tragic loss of her father, teach us a new language, teach us the true meaning of unconditional love or just show us that Down Syndrome does not define her as a person. I do not believe in killing an unborn baby. I still say it goes back to education to the doctors. I am so thankful my doctor never recommended having more test to see if I would want to abort my baby girl when my QUAD screen came back showing that Down Syndrome was likely. He called me to see what I wanted to do and then gave me the options. But never once was abortion talked about or given as an option. I love my doctor and am so thankful for him. He is an amazing Doctor. He gave us great advice after we were told about Lacey. Just an amazing man. I so wish everyone could have a doctor like him and I wish ever doctor could be like him. I just can’t understand why the rush to abortion, because in the end I look at my daughter everyday and her sisters often say the same thing “How could anyone decided to kill their unborn baby? Look at all the fun we would be missing.” I will not deny that there is extra work involved and would never say my life is easy but this is the journey my family and I are embarking on together and we would never change it for all the “tea in china.”

k July 17, 2012 at 10:29 am

You know I have a ton to say but I’m logged in at work and it’s insanity here. I promise to try and come back with coherent thoughts shortly.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:32 am

I can’t wait. :)

kathi July 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Hi Andi,
I believe some of it is ignorance and lack of education. In all honesty, when I was pregnant with my first, Patrick, and my doctor explained all the tests, I remember him distinctly saying that Downs Syndrome and I forget now what other defect leave a child without a real life and I would want to consider abortion. We had this discussion at length because one of my tests initially came back pointing toward Downs and I was terrified. I relied on my doctor to give me sound medical advice. The advice I was given was biased with my doctor’s opinion and not just medical advice. But I was young – 25 – and I trusted my doctor. My second test was normal and Patrick was born without any defects. Being 100% truthful, I can’t say that I would not have had an abortion as that is the direction my doctor was leading me to if the second test had come back the same as the first. Now Patrick was not conceived via IVF, but perhaps there are young women out there with similar doctor’s giving similar advice. I don’t know, just what went through my head while reading this. I also have to tell you that meeting you and your family, I am much more enlightened. And although I am still an advocate of choice, I look at things much differently and realize no one has all the answers.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:35 am

I agree with you, kathi, and you hit on what I think may be the biggest factor at play: PEOPLE TRUST THEIR DOCTOR. Unfortunately, many doctors provide outdated information, and don’t have much, if any, personal experience even knowing a child with Down syndrome, much less raising one. People assume the expert is the expert, but often he/she is not the expert in the area for which he/she is providing advice. Would we trust a plumber to be the premier authority in electric? Probably not!

Sarah July 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I personally work as an infertility nurse specifically women undergoing IVF. I can honestly say that I do not get the feeling that these women are more likely to terminate their pregnancy than any other undergoing early screening. Most women who go through IVF are older (over 35) choose to undergo all of the early screening which is why I think the termination rate is higher than those not going through IVF. We personally only take care of them until 8-9 weeks so do not know what they do after re: maternal fetal medicine, OB, etc.

I looked at your statistics of live birth IVF. It seemed a little low to me. Our practice which is a little higher than the average.
http://www.atlantainfertility.com/success-rates.html

I can say that our physicians in our practice do not promote any type of elective termination regardless of the reason. I personally know many of them strongly disagree with elective termination of any pregnancy. That being said, most of our women have done TONS of research and years of educating themselves on all of their options, tests, etc. There are two practices that I know of (none in the southeast) that people can do genetic testing for sex selection. I find this to be very disturbing and sick.

All this to say, that while I have dealt professionally with ethical situations that strongly go against my faith and beliefs, I emphasize with 99% of our patients and what they are going through. Statically the emotional stress they undergo is equal to a terminal cancer. I also have many friends who share the same beliefs and I do and use them as mentors for other women I know who are debating on how far they want to go with infertility treatment.

Definitely interesting blog post. I had to comment because of working with it everyday but also having very strong ethical morals and beliefs!

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:36 am

Thanks for the information, Sarah, and for providing the perspective of someone who actually works with patients who struggle with infertility. The statistics I provided were averages based on a CDC report published in 2009. Averages probably have improved in that time, and I’m sure it varies from clinic to clinic, as well.

Allie Rhodes July 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I work with some amazing people and know many, many families with children with DS. Here is a link to a local organization which strives to educate parents and physicians on the beautiful lives our children have and the joy they bring. I hope you don’t mind me posting a link. Your blog was so heart-wrenching. I wish could do more to advocate for these precious babies but maybe this link will possibly help someone.
For families- http://www.brightertomorrows.org/
For physicians-http://www.brighter-tomorrows.org/
Bless you for being such an advocate.

Keri July 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I think it’s because women have to make this major decision at the worst possible time of their grief process. During the pits of depression/rejection that can happen while grieving this diagnosis, they have to decide to continue or terminate the pregnancy. They can’t wait long on this decision, they have to decide quickly. The fear is so extreme during this time that hitting the abort button probably feels very justifiable to them, regardless of their previous beliefs. I feel for these women regardless of their decision. They all need support and resources and unfortunately, I’m sure many suffer in silence.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

Excellent point – Keri! Major life decisions shouldn’t have to be made under intense pressure, but you’re right. I think kathi made a good point above about people trusting their doctors, and I imagine the need to rely on someone else to help them make that decision is much more pronounced in situations like these. Great thoughts.

Wendy July 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Hi Andi,

My husband and I did go down the road of IVF following 3 years of trying on our own to have a child. We both knew that we desperately wanted to have a child (or children) and we both felt differently at the time about adoption so IVF seemed to make the most sense for us as a next step. It is a tough road to go down emotionally as the multiple trips a week for ultrasounds and blood draws, daily injections, hormones and the anticipation of the outcome really take a lot out of you (we experienced 2 second trimester miscarriages that also added to it) so I agree that most of the babies are wanted. In 2008 we gave birth to our daughter and I remembered after reading your post that although we were considered high risk due to our history and age, we didn’t really see the point of pre-screening…what were we going to do with the information we were given?…we knew that we were going to love this child no matter the circumstances. We expected that this would be our ONLY child. Two years later, we were blessed with the exciting news that we were expecting again, AND this time without fertility treatments or IVF. We went to the same doctors and we heard the same recommendations for pre-screening and for whatever reason (I still don’t know why) we decided “why not?”. We elected to have the triple screening test done and it was during this visit that there were concerns about Down Syndrome. I have to say that I was in absolute shock….maybe I felt like I had already climbed the steep hill of IVF, miscarriage and loss and I felt like at some level I deserved to have a healthy child. I mostly was just terrified! I didn’t know what this diagnosis meant, I didn’t know if I was a strong enough person, I didn’t know how it would affect my daughter and my family…I felt like my world was spinning. Fortunately, I had an incredible doctor whom instructed me to make an appointment to meet with their genetics counselor, gave me websites and local support group contact information and told me to go home, hug my husband, love my daughter and sit with it. It was the best advice I was given. My fear, really, was about the loss of some expectation/hope/dream I had for the unborn child. In 2010, Jack came into our lives and changed it forever! He puts life into perspective. I see the world through his eyes, I live in the moment, I accept all new accomplishments as a huge success. The pre-screening tests – well, if I had not been so well supported by my doctor, I am afraid to know what might have transpired and it is for that reason…it is concerning. At the same time, used more as a tool for what parents might expect and prepare for after the birth of their child, it can be helpful. It was through knowing his diagnosis, we were able to have more meticulous ultrasounds of his heart to detect his VSD and to determine that he had duodenal atresia that would need to be repaired within 24-48 hours of birth to save his life. We were able to meet with specialist before his birth and prepare for his entrance into the world…and for that, I am also grateful.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:42 am

I’m so glad to hear that your doctor was supportive and helpful. It is amazing what we can do when it’s thrust upon us, isn’t it? I went through the same feeling of “don’t I deserve a healthy child?” – I had a miscarriage, followed by a stillbirth, followed by three years of infertility, followed by a preemie with cerebral palsy, and now a son with Down syndrome. It definitely didn’t feel fair! But I am a better person because of the challenges, and I wouldn’t change my situation for anything in the world.

kadiera July 17, 2012 at 6:36 pm

At one point in our infertility journey, we were leaning toward adoption rather than fertility treatments (though we had decided that if it came to it, we would not do IVF). It was made very clear to us by certain family members that adoption was not acceptable because “you never know what you’re going to get”…

…not that you know with a biological child either.

Oh the irony – part of our family drama from that same group of people over the last few years has been that both of our children, one conceived with fertility drugs, one naturally, were both micro-preemies with substantial medical issues and lingering special needs.

I suspect for some people, having already heard from family members what a “horrible” thing it would be to have a child who is not “perfect,” there’s a lot of pressure to avoid giving birth to a child with a disability. This feeling that this may be their only child makes it hard to give up their preconceived notions of what a perfect child looks like.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

Excellent point, kadiera. My family was supportive of the adoption idea, so it wasn’t really on my radar that other people’s families wouldn’t be. As for having family members reject an imperfect child…well, I’ll just say that I understand that angle much better.

Shannon July 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

While I don’t want to dismiss this argument, I’d like to chime in by saying that many people in my family were opposed to our decision to adopt our third child. Some has come around, and one probably never will. We still moved forward, and I’m thankful we did.

Mike Sullivan July 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm

This is a great discussion and a very disturbing trend. I am not sure that this situation is that different than natural pregnancies. I say that because women who under go screening and then have a selective abortion for Down syndrome also have wanted pregnancies, that is why they are having antenatal health care. If they didn’t want the pregnancy, they would have had an abortion and not gone for health care.

What is really going on here is eugenics. Screening is taking wanted pregnancies and making then conditional pregnancies on the basis of the type of child. And as parents of children with Down syndrome know, they are awesome people and shouldn’t be targeted in this way. That is why Saving Downs says that antenatal genetic screening should only be directed towards life affirming care in the same way all other antenatal health care is. Otherwise the Down syndrome is being discriminated against and we are under the shadow of eugenics.

Marie July 19, 2012 at 12:19 am

First of all, I agree with everything you said. From experience with people I know who have done IVF, many of them seem to get the attitude that a baby will make life perfect I have personally seen people struggle for years with infertility, and when they finally get their baby they can’t deal with it. They built up a perfect image in their mind, and when the baby didn’t bring them the perfect life they imagined (because babies are hard work!) they don’t cope. Not all of course, I have friends who did IVF and are happy wonderful parents!!! But I did notice quite a lot of IVF parents just don’t cope. So I can imagine if they finally get their dream pregnancy, and the baby is down syndrome…well that doesn’t fit the perfect image they were striving for.

I know other people who take the attitude of “It’s a burden on society.” I know a lady who tried for years to have a second child, and when she finally got pregnant she was in her 40s. She said if it was downs, she’s aborting because “It wouldn’t be fair on society, I’m older and who will take care of it.” I personally feel that’s why we pay taxes – to help provide for those in society who need it. I would obviously do my best to make sure my child was provided for in the mean time, just like any parent.

Adoption – I’m with you, I’d rather give a home to a child who needs one than bring a child into the world. It depends where you live – here in Australia adoption is so difficult it’s close to impossible. Our laws are insane, the costs are outrageous, and you can try for years spending tens of thousands only to come away with nothing. I’ve heard of families who tried for 13 years only to be told they are now too old to adopt. It seems much easier in America, I follow blogs who got a baby within 6 months. Some people also don’t feel they could love another child.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:46 am

Cost of adoption is expensive here in the US, as well, but not really all that different from adoption (depending on the situation), so I doubt that cost plays a big factor here in most cases. I know that IVF is very inexpensive where you are, so with a scarcity of babies (which we do have here), I would guess IVF is selected more often in Australia.

R July 19, 2012 at 12:19 am

I think it may be a bit superficial for you to judge others. What may be “right” for you isn’t always what’s right for someone else. I am the proud Aunt of a child with ds… but I have absolutely no right (nor do you.. I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t jude) to call someone superficial because they don’t agree with my views of morality. Your entire post feels snobish.. like people who chose differently are beneath you. Sad. You are no better than anyone… try to remember that.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 10:26 am

I opted to respond to you in a separate post, R. You can find it here: http://wp.me/p1yHoW-1G8

Voldieman July 19, 2012 at 7:50 am

I am so sick of the eugenics crap. Elective abortion is not eugenics. Eugenics is a state policy, here it is an individual woman deciding for herself. Of course, there are many that would use the scare words of “eugenics” to deny women the right to accurate information and the right to choose what is best for her. Not everyone is equipped to handle a child with as many needs as many DS children do. The woman who is pregnant alone knows whether she has the capacity to handle such a child and the choice is hers and hers alone. It isn’t up to the doctors, nor the nurses, nor the self-righteous “life-affirming” people who think they can decide better than the person risking their health and life and future. I would be horrified if I went to a doctor that would lie to me and accuse me of horrible things because their faith “dictated it” as many women unfortunately are . If you can handle a severely handicapped child, and don’t want prenatal testing or abortion, then by all means don’t have it there is no evil government eugenics program forcing you to, otherwise stay out of people’s personal decisions.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 8:27 am

There are also many who would use the guilt words of “burden to society” to deny women accurate information and the ability to choose what’s best. And I disagree with your assertion that only the woman who is pregnant knows whether she has the capacity to handle a child with special needs – unless she already has a child with those needs, the woman also doesn’t know. Many women with children with Down syndrome believed they couldn’t handle it when they received the news…but somehow they do.

I can’t speak for everyone on the pro-life side, but I would suggest that if a woman is absolutely convinced she can’t handle a child with special needs, then perhaps motherhood isn’t for her. Children develop terminal illnesses, are born premature with disabilities that couldn’t be predicted in utero, become victims of violence, and suffer serious injuries, all of which can result in special needs requiring intensive care. That’s the risk that every mother takes when she brings a child into this world – even the “perfect” ones.

Voldieman July 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

I’m of the opinion that a woman has the mental capacity to choose what’s best. Women are not mentally inferior creatures that need protection from facts. “Guilt words” don’t deny women information, restrictions on choice, prenatal testing and state efforts to allow clinics and doctors to expressly lie to women do.

And it is not up to you or any of the other forced-birthers to make the decision for anyone else. It is not up to you to decide whether she has the capacity to raise a disabled child or to decide whether her decision is correct. Yes, there is always a risk that something may happen to the fetus or to the child once it is born but you act like minimising the risks makes someone unfit to parent. Choosing not to have a DS or otherwise severely disabled child when the test is clear has no relation to the ability of someone to raise a child including a child that may develop disabilities.

Andi July 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Voldieman – I am more than willing to have a civilized discussion about this subject with you. However, you have made a number of statements and assumed a number of “facts not in evidence” about me. You have no evidence (because none exists) that I am a “forced-birther”. I don’t believe that people choose life because of laws – they choose it because of what’s in their hearts – and my foremost desire is to speak to people’s hearts.

Contrary to what you may believe, I don’t advocate that any woman is deprived of information, no matter what her position is on abortion. In fact, I believe the complete opposite – that all women deserve honest and up-to-date information about both the challenges AND the blessings of a child with Down syndrome. But the fact remains that most doctors only know the medical side of the equation, so that’s the information that they provide. If they don’t have a child with Down syndrome, they don’t know what it’s like to parent one. Negative information about outcomes (which is in abundant supply in medical circles) is much more likely to lead to abortion (or giving up a child for adoption) than is positive information.

You also assume that I believe women don’t have the mental capacity to make their own decisions, when in fact the opposite is true. I believe that women have more strength inside of them than they know, that they can handle much more than they (and often their families and friends) believe they can handle, and that women have an innate knowledge of what is best for themselves (and their child). Unfortunately, women are also pummeled routinely with messages that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, or strong enough. One only has to speak with the legions of mothers of children with Down syndrome who didn’t want the hand that they were dealt because they didn’t think they could handle it, but now wouldn’t change it for anything, because they believe they are better people because of their children. And lest you assume all of the women who feel that way are rabid anti-choicers, guess again – many have admitted openly that had they known in advance, they would have aborted their child with Down syndrome.

I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to read my previous post on common ground and REAL choice (http://www.bringingthesunshine.com/2012/06/idsc-for-life-common-ground-real-choice/) If at that time you’d like to discuss this topic further, I’m here, though I’ll state upfront that if your future comments involve unsubstantiated statements about my character, I don’t plan to reply, and I may choose to delete your comment.

My house, my rules.

k July 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I want to share a story about what happened to me during my first miscarriage. It was after an FET, and I required a D&C to move things along because my body wasn’t cooperating. I’ll spare you some of the awfulness of the experience, but the nurse asked me how I got pregnant (since my partner is a woman – apparently the concept completely eluded her) and when I said IVF her knee-jerk response was, “Oh, and now you don’t want it anymore?”

I wanted to scream at her that I wanted this baby (and actually, babies, there were twins in there at the time) more than anything. I wanted the hospital bed to be the LAST place I wanted to be. Medical professionals assume things on our “behalf” more often than I wanted to believe. They assume they know what women want, what women need, and what women can handle, and they assume they know what motivates us.

You’re right, Voldieman, women are not inferior. We are not all, however, medical professionals. Nor are our partners, be they men or women. And we all rely on our physicians to provide us with accurate, unbiased information. I would expect my doctor to provide me accurate information on the side effects of a blood pressure drug, just as I would expect my doctor to provide me accurate information about the risks of bringing a child with Down Syndrome into the world. Those risks should be expressed in medical terms, such as higher risk of heart defects at birth, low muscle tone, delayed cognitive skills (although how delayed cannot be quantified prior to birth no matter how hard you try). What doctors are doing is straying from the medical facts and opining on quality of life. This is something that is not only unethical, it is beyond the scope of their knowledge.

Personally, my partner and I refused all screening tests when I was pregnant with our twins. We prayed for a child and were blessed with two. We didn’t ask for a child who will never have issues, this is unrealistic. My close friend’s daughter is autistic, something she never would have known through genetic testing. She is much less functional than my other friend’s daughter who has Down Syndrome. Does one of them have more right to a chance at life than the other? Where would you draw the line?

Talking in terms of “minimizing a risk” fails to view the growing child as a person, even if you only view him/her as a potential person (depending on your views of when life begins). The risks of bringing a child into the world are immense. If you look at the risks, you would never have children.

The phrase “forced birther” is so inflammatory it’s offensive to me and I generally consider myself pro choice. People with Down Syndrome deserve the same chance at life as any other child (or potential child). If a woman is going to terminate because she isn’t ready for motherhood, that is one thing (and not something I agree with but we’ll leave my complicated abortion views out of this), but terminating because a very wanted child has an extra chromosome and it might be hard is an awful statement on us as human beings. Raising children is hard – kids get cancer, they get hurt, they break our hearts. If you want easy, get a puppy, don’t get pregnant. But if you want to be a parent, be a true parent, one who loves their children no matter what. Andi is right, if you can’t handle a child with special needs, then you can’t handle a child, because at ANY POINT in a child’s life they could become a child with special needs.

Kelley July 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm

So well said K.

SS November 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I am reading your blog post months after you posted it and the responses above were posted. I don’t know if you will read this.
But there is one point that no one has mentioned- in the US, services for children and adults with special needs are being cut and cut and cut. The budget is being balanced on the backs of our most vulnerable, while CEOs grow richer and get more corporate welfare and tax breaks, and expensive wars drag on. The latest response to Obamacare health insurance has been for wealthy CEOs to cut employees’ hours so as to not pay health benefits to workers (Pizza Hut – is that you?)
Of course, the same pro life politicians are the ones who cut services after the child is born. (This is the part of the pro life politics I don’t get, nor do I get why pro life is also bundled with anti birth control). Some of these politicians have special needs children themselves, but they are so wealthy and powerful that they can afford to buy their children all the services they need throughout life, plus no system will dare to skimp on services for their children. So they are truly out of touch with the rest of us who have to struggle with early intervention, school districts, adult services etc. and waiting lists are years long, and the pols talk about individual responsibility.
In such a political atmosphere, it’s very understandable that many parents would prefer to abort than to bring a beloved child into the world and then not be able to give them the supports they truly deserve, and truly, who will look our children when we are gone? Just overflowing love is not enough, and individual responsibility alone will not be enough, to support our special children adequately and appropriately.
So the pro life / anti services politicians (and their supporters) really need to answer this dilemma.

Andi December 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm

SS – I do read every comment that I receive, and I respond to as many as I can, though not always as quickly as I would like. I’m not quite sure how your comment ties into the original post about why people who undergo IVF will then abort the baby, but I’ll respond to it here nonetheless. I do not plan to address your question about pro-life being tied with anti-contraception because my sense is that you don’t actually want that question answered, but if I am wrong about that feel free to say so and I’ll address it separately.

I initially read your comment the day you wrote it, and then came back to it today. I hope you will take what I have to say here with the loving and open spirit with which it is intended.

Having said that, as I read (and re-read) your comment, what I saw was someone who is frustrated and angry – with the wealthy, with politicians, etc. – and I would encourage you to redirect your energy into more productive pursuits. I, too, am frustrated with the system – particularly our politicians! – for many reasons. You mentioned services being cut – I can tell you that my daughter, who has CP and will live an almost-normal life, received a lot more services during early intervention than my son with Down syndrome has received (several years between them, but we have lived in the same state for both). I also think it’s a real possibility that he may be rejected for public preschool, which we never had to face with her. I get it.

But the fact remains that my children are my responsibility, and we are guaranteed nothing in this life – not from our government, our employers, our friends, our family, etc. It is my responsibility to provide for the little people God has entrusted to my care. So…if Nathan is denied public preschool, I will study and research preschool at-home programs that I can implement and I will pinch my pennies to enroll him in private preschool to make up for the public preschool he doesn’t get to attend. That’s a relatively “easy” problem but the same would apply no matter the circumstances. Mr. Andi and I live conservatively from a financial standpoint for the sole reason that we feel we must be prepared for as many contingencies as possible.

Every choice we (or our government or our employers or our families) make has a cost. It’s frustrating to see people who collect our money via taxes use that money in a way that we don’t agree with, but isn’t that all the more reason to take more of our decisions into our own hands, rather than to continue to trust those who aren’t in our shoes?

But setting politics aside, the solution isn’t to have a different system mandated or different politicians elected. It’s to change the hearts of people in society so that the vulnerable are no longer considered lesser beings.

anonymous December 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm

This is going to sound unbelievable, but I imagine that some women who underwent IVF have abortions because of the psychological stress of IVF and depression from infertility and hormones. I tried to get pregnant on my own for a year in my late thirties. I had surgery, had to take meds for a uterine infection, tried fertility drugs, and ultimately did IVF. I realize now that I was depressed while I was trying to get pregnant. My IVF worked and I am 3 months pregnant now. But I’m not happy about it. I’m sure that doesn’t make any sense to people who haven’t been seriously depressed. But there it is. I have contemplated abortion, because I am completely out of touch emotionally with why I wanted to get pregnant in the first place. I can’t tell what’s real anymore, what my real feelings are. I can see someone having an abortion in the place that I am in right now. But if I did it, in my mind, I would be definitely saying that I don’t want to have any more children, period, and I can’t say that. I’m vehemently pro-choice, left wing, atheist, the whole nine yards. But I saw the baby moving in my last ultrasound and there was a time that I obviously really wanted this child. When I WASN’T ready to say that I’m done having kids. I did do the screening and I got a blood test to screen for the trisomies. I do reserve the right to terminate on that basis, as I believe abortion should certainly be legal and women should be trusted to make these decisions for themselves. My son is just now in the process of getting assessed for autism (the timing, I think, has to do with my depression and fear about parenting again), and he’s starting treatment already because I’m pretty sure he has it. Do I think I am guaranteed a perfect child if my screening tests come back negative? No. Of course anything can happen, including this baby being autistic, too. But I can’t knowingly and intentionally continue this pregnancy with the CERTAINTY of a serious problem, not with my son in the situation he’s in and with the emotional state I’m in right now. My therapist is worried about my current intention to HAVE the baby, because it will be exposed to my ambivalence about parenting.

Andi December 5, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I’ll preface my reply by stating clearly and unequivocally that I’m not a counselor or therapist so I’m not qualified to make recommendations regarding your health and well being. I do, however, want to share a few thoughts with you.

First – I agree with you that fertility treatment itself could cause depression. I took Clomid years ago when trying to conceive and I thought I was losing my mind – and that was only for a brief period of time. Hormones are very powerful and it is my belief that the long-term effects of their widespread use have yet to be discovered. I find it bitterly ironic when I come across people who have no qualms about taking artificial contraceptives, yet choose to eat only organic foods. But I digress…

Second – It concerns me if no one around you noticed your depression (or at least failed to act on that knowledge) prior to your becoming pregnant. A responsible physician should consider a patient’s health – not just her desire to have a baby – prior to embarking on a treatment such as IVF that has such long-term and far reaching impacts.

But finally (and this point is the most important) – It wasn’t clear, but it sounds to me like your therapist may be directly or indirectly encouraging you to have an abortion. I hope that is not the case, because if so it is completely inappropriate. Despite your current depression, you obviously wanted a child, and fairly recently. Many women who choose abortion when they didn’t want a child become depressed after the fact. How much more likely is that if you choose to abort you will regret your decision when it is too late, and what will that do to your mental health?

I encourage you to seek out assistance from a trained counselor, friends, family, and even clergy (I know you said you are atheist, but this might be a time to “explore your religious options” :) ) so that you can get the help you need to get through this difficult time.

God bless.

anonymous December 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Thank you, that was a lovely reply. Although I know we feel very differently about these issues, I appreciate the kindness and thoughtfulness.

I have no intention to have an abortion, it’s just something that I considered in my very dark moments. I believe that I will feel more and more in touch with wanting this baby. I do have a therapist and a psychiatrist, so I am in treatment, and my husband is very supportive and as understanding as he can be. I don’t think my IVF doctor knew I was depressed until I was already pregnant, as I do think it was mild before my IVF cycle and just got severe very quickly.

I questioned my therapist about what she said, and she said that she would never advise me on a matter so personal. I thought what she said was very strange, though. I really don’t know her point. You can’t will yourself to want a baby if that isn’t how you really feel. But I don’t think that means that I really want an abortion. I’m sure that’s the case for some, but not for me right now. One of my issues is that even though I tried so hard to get pregnant, I’m also really afraid of how my whole family will adjust to having a new baby. I think I can work with that, though. But I didn’t think about that very much before I got pregnant, because I was so caught up in trying to get pregnant. I didn’t think I WOULD be able to, so all I could see were the negatives of infertility and the positives of having another child. It’s very tricky, because while I most definitely do believe in choice and I trust women, sometimes by virtue of certain situations I do believe some people may make choices that they might not otherwise. Especially if there is a sense of pressure to decide quickly before the pregnancy progresses further, which I think is almost certainly a factor for even pro-choice women. But that doesn’t mean that therefore the abortion decision is necessarily wrong for her. It’s all very hard to untangle.

It’s an interesting thing to be experiencing infertility and to be pro-choice. It’s interesting to be PREGNANT after infertility and be pro-choice. I find that I still feel the same about it. But it’s fascinating to consider, and worthwhile.

Melissa December 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Being adamantly pro-LIFE – in the sense of the life of the mother, the baby, the mother’s other children, and all of her family – I truly believe abortion ought never be restricted or outlawed.

That said, I share your same confusion on why someone would abort after having gone through the trouble of IVF. I too would choose adoption first (even international adoption if need be), as if my want was to be parent, then there are already so many who need that love and can fill that spot. But in the case of IVF which is drawn out and yes – VERY emotionally complicated – I would hope that there would be a counselor somewhere in the equation that would talk to the potential parents about the success rate and the possibility of having a child that has special needs.

I share the frustrations mentioned above by someone else ranting about the government taking away help from families too. And this is where I go back to your own response to that – family planning responsibility falls on the shoulders of the mother and father and sometimes terminating a pregnancy is the right thing for them to do to BE responsible.

Obviously there are so many different scenarios in which a person comes to be pregnant – it’s not the simple “man + woman + sex = baby” I was taught when I was younger. With each scenario comes new emotions, for each and every different person, and all scenarios are different – I would just hope that even in the case of those who do choose to terminate an IVF pregnancy, that they receive the same amount of love and support they would had they not. They’re still people. They have a right to life too.

Just thinking out loud.

Andi December 11, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I both agree and disagree with you. I agree that all people should receive love and support, no matter what choice they make – whether to have a baby via IVF, or to terminate a child after conception. I reject IVF, but I do not reject the parents of children born using IVF, and I don’t reject the children, either – I have friends and family members who have undergone IVF and I don;t sit in judgment nor shun them because of their decision. But “giving love and support” is vastly different than the right to life. We don’t have a right to have an easy life, and I don’t believe we should destroy one child because we believe it would be better for the rest of our family if that child did not exist. In short, I don’t agree that terminating a pregnancy can ever be the “responsible” choice.

Thank you for speaking frankly and honestly.

Melissa December 11, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Thank you as well. Our differing opinions on the matter clearly demonstrate why each woman must have the option to take care of her self and get family in the best way she knows how :)

sara maimon December 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

the article also points out that 90% of women who conceive naturally ALSO abort for down’s syndrome. Why is everybody ignoring that?
ALL of these pregnancies were wanted; if they were unwanted pregnancies, the women would have simply gotten an abortion WITHOUT bothering with invasive down’s Syndrome test.
There is no reason to react differently to women who conceived naturally or by IVF. Either way is equally problematic, or unproblematic, according to your perspective.

shs9 April 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I 100% agree w/ you here.

Also there is a whole other side to this story that seems to be neglected or ignored. Not everyone feels the same way about DS, or other fetal anomalies. Not everyone only considers how it will be on the parent who raises the affected child. Some do not consider it to be the kind, loving choice for the child to carry on. I recently lost a pregnancy to triploidy. I tried for 8 mos for that pregnancy. Triploidy is 100% lethal, w/ most spontaneously miscarrying. The longest one has ever survived is 10 mos after birth. And it’s a nasty nasty painful cruel horrible way to go. My pregnancy did end up spontaneously ending after watching it through 5 ultrasounds and knowing it’d be happening for 2 miserable weeks. However, if it hadn’t stopped on its own, I absolutely would have elected to terminate that pregnancy. It would have not only been a risk to my own life to carry a triploidy to term, but I personally would consider it cruel and inhumane to subject that certain suffering and death upon my potential child and I dare somebody to say to my face that I’m a bad person for doing so after going through what I went through. My due date would’ve been this week and as I now enter the IVF phase, not a single moment goes by that I don’t think about that pregnancy and wish w/ everything it could’ve been different, but I’m still grateful I was spared the decision my husband and I knew we’d have to make had it gone further – *because* we loved and wanted best for that potential child.

NOTE: This is not some sort of claim that one way is right and the other is wrong. This type of thing is an extremely individual and personal decision to make. However it’s important not to get lost in the “how could you” perspective in decisions to terminate a planned pregnancy. It’s no more fair to say that to someone who believes the best choice is to terminate than it is for another to accuse a parent who *doesn’t * terminate of knowingly torturing an innocent child. This is all much resemblant of a discussion about removing treatment in certain terminal cases.

DS is just that – a syndrome. As such there is a spectrum of affectation. Some do quite well. Others are subjected to dozens of surgeries, leukemia, very little cognitive function, early death. I have a friend who lost her less than 1 yr old due to complications of DS just a couple yrs ago. Others are born into families that will have no one to care for them once their parents age and die, who will end up as wards or in group homes. No one should judge the decision a parent (who clearly loves and wants this pregnancy to be going through something has difficult as IVF) makes for a pregnancy. These types of decisions do not come easily or lightly and *certainly* are not an affect of some sort of designer baby type of mindset (ludicrous).

The original post really hit a nerve for me and I’m sure many other grieving want-to-be parents of the type that are often neglected in these conversations. I do believe that it’s difficult to truly understand without being in a person’s shoes.

Lori Campion March 29, 2014 at 1:56 am

I truly believe this is due to doctor influence. One, they want to make money, that’s their job. Two, they can be so clinical, so cold, so trained for perfection. Well to me perfection isn’t a perfect pregnancy, or a perfect baby. My son Owen was born with Duodenal atresia & we were delivered at 35 weeks and told he would have downs. It was shocking. The doctors were flooding my room. I had no time to think let alone plan. I was given a book on downs to educate myself as he lay there weak and 4 days after surgery to repair his birth defect. But the most offensive thing was when a social worker came to his bedside in the NICU and asked me if I wanted to put my son up for adoption.. I was floored! what? why? adoption? i swear had I had any strength left after the c-section and endless crying I would have slapped her. After I demanded she leave my presence, a few days later I apologized for my behavior & asked why she offered this or thought adoption for my son would be anything i would ever desire. She began to tell me of how 80% of mothers give up their babies that aren’t healthy. Not healthy I thought?! He had a defect that has now been surgically repaired and will survive, not healthy? She said that most families sign away custody as soon as these babies are born. She also said he would have a long history of surgery’s and downs and it would be too much for me to handle with me having lupus. I said “listen up, and let me make myself very clear for you. This is my baby. He will always be my son. I have survived much worse than this. I survived an abusive marriage for 13 years, I’m estranged from my mother for 10 years now, my father is an alcoholic, I was a teen mother, I struggled as a single mother for 3 years with 3 boys. I successfully opened 3 retail stationery stores, created a greeting card line from scratch, I was diagnosed with lupus at 30, cervical cancer at 31, severe anemia at 32 and have battled that now 12 years, I married again (our anniversary is coming up 10 years) and this is our first baby together and we won’t be signing your forms” I don’t get it either. I wish I had answers. But her coming to his bedside with a form ready for me to just sign and give him up has never left my mind. He’s now 3.5 and the love of our lives and couldn’t be any healthier. No downs, he has has to endure further surgeries, but is a tough little boy! I would hate to think my mother would have given me away for not being healthy or perfect… I have lupus, anemia, a thyroid condition… my baby is healthier than I am. love is love people and a baby is a baby. your baby, my baby, they all need love, that’s it just love them and help them fight whatever it is they have to fight. Don’t abort them and abandon them because they have a limitation. people in glass houses!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: