Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Surrogate pregnancy is not uncommon, and it usually ends well for all involved. But a story out of Connecticut and Michigan is almost operatic in its complexity, drama, and high stakes. CNN.com tells the story of Crystal Kelley, who acted as a gestational carrier to a Connecticut couple who wanted a fourth child and had frozen embryos from previous in vitro fertilization cycles.
Kelley became pregnant, but a routine ultrasound uncovered a number of severe birth defects in the fetus, including brain and heart abnormalities as well as a severely cleft lip and palate. The biological parents, on hearing the news, wanted Kelley to terminate the pregnancy, but Kelley refused.
After a legal battle erupted–the contract Kelley had signed stipulated “abortion in case of severe fetus abnormality,” but didn’t specify what that meant–the biological parents said they wanted to take custody of the child at birth and then turn her over to Connecticut’s state-run foster care system. The case became even more complicated when it was discovered that the couple had used an anonymous egg donor to make the embryo.
Kelley, disturbed by all options on the table, fled to Michigan, where she would be considered to be the baby’s mother under that state’s laws.
While in Michigan, Kelley gave birth to the girl and found adoptive parents for her. From CNN:
Baby S. — her adoptive parents are comfortable using her first initial — has a long road in front of her. She’s already had one open-heart surgery and surgery on her intestines, and in the next year she’ll need one or two more cardiac surgeries in addition to procedures to repair her cleft lip and palate. Later in childhood she’ll need surgeries on her jaw and ear and more heart surgeries.
Her adoptive parents, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their family’s privacy, know Baby S. might not be with them for long. The cardiac procedures she needs are risky, and her heterotaxy and holoprosencephaly, though mild, carry a risk of early death, according to doctors.
If Baby S. does survive, there’s a 50% chance she won’t be able to walk, talk or use her hands normally.
In some ways, Baby S. looks different from other 8-month-olds babies. In addition to the facial abnormalities, she’s very small, weighing only 11 pounds and she gets food through a tube directly into her stomach so she’ll grow faster.
Her adoptive parents know some people look at her and see a baby born to suffer — a baby who’s suffering could have been prevented with an abortion.
But that’s not the way they see it. They see a little girl who’s defied the odds, who constantly surprises her doctors with what she’s able to do — make eye contact, giggle at her siblings, grab toys, eye strangers warily.
“S. wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile. She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm,” her mother said in an e-mail to CNN. “Ultimately, we hold onto a faith that in providing S. with love, opportunity, encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving….”
….Just as there are two ways to look at Baby S., there are two ways to look at Crystal Kelley, the woman who carried her.
In one view, she’s a saint who fought at great personal sacrifice for an unborn child whose own parents did not want her to live. In another view, she recklessly absconded with someone else’s child and brought into the world a baby who faces serious medical challenges when that wasn’t her decision to make.
Image: Pregnant woman in hospital, via Shutterstock
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Must Read, Parenting News
Friday, November 16th, 2012
A 17-week pregnant woman who died in an Irish hospital late last month is at the center of a debate over whether the Catholic country’s anti-abortion laws put women’s lives in danger. Savita Halappanavar checked into the hospital complaining of back pain, but was soon told she was having a miscarriage. Despite her considerable physical pain, she was denied assistance that would have amounted to an abortion. She died 3 days later of a blood infection. From CNN.com:
“Doctors at Galway University Hospital said that as long as the fetal heartbeat could be felt, the law prevented them from ending the pregnancy, Holland said. Halappanavar died of septicemia, or a blood infection, after three days in the hospital.
“Tuesday morning, came back and said, ‘Sorry, can’t help you. It’s a Catholic country. Can’t help you. It’s a Catholic team.’ So, Savita said that she was not a Catholic. She is Hindu, so why impose the law of the land on her?” her husband said.
The death led to protests, and top Irish lawmakers are asking whether the law needs to be changed.
In Ireland, abortion is legal if the mother’s life is at risk, which is different from her health being at risk, Holland said.
The hospital expressed sympathy to Halappanavar’s husband, but noted in a statement that “the facts of this tragic case have yet to be established.”
Image: Empty hospital bed, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 8th, 2012
A new large-scale study has found that access to free contraceptive pills is part of the explanation for well-documented drops in the rates of both teen pregnancy and abortions. The finding comes just before the Obama administration’s health care law takes effect, including provisions that will offer birth control coverage to women nationwide. The Associated Press has more:
When price wasn’t an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.
The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.
There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That’s lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.
In fact, if the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, Peipert’s team reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Image: Birth control pills, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)
By Amy Julia Becker
My kids love to hear stories about when they were born. They know the quirky details—that Penny was easy to push out, that I threw up on the way to the hospital with William, that they celebrated Marilee’s birth in the hospital with cupcakes. They have a very faint idea that giving birth is precarious and difficult, but they know nothing of the sorrow of miscarriage or the feeling of crisis surrounding an unintended pregnancy. The word abortion has not entered their vocabulary, and I hope I can keep it that way for a while.
Abortion seems not to have made it into the vocabulary of our Presidential candidates either. Over one million fetuses are aborted every year in America, and nearly 1/3 of American women have had or will have an abortion. A recent Gallup poll indicates that a slim majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life, while 42 percent self-identify as pro-choice. I don’t talk about abortion with my kids, but the reality of abortion impacts the lives of women and children in America on a day-to-day basis.
Only 25 percent of respondents to that same Gallup poll stated that they think abortion should be legal in all circumstances, which implies that 75 percent of the nation opposes abortion in some cases. At the same time, since the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade nearly 40 years ago, it has become increasingly unlikely that the Court will overturn women’s legal access to abortion services. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts called Roe v. Wade established precedent. And even if the court were to overturn the ruling, many states would keep abortion legal.
So let’s assume for a moment that abortion is here to stay and that the vast majority of the American public believes it should be restricted in some sense. The same Gallup poll indicates that Republicans and Democrats have held steady on their views about abortion over the past decade. But independents have fluctuated, with 47 percent now identifying themselves as pro-life (vs. 30 percent in 2001) and 41percent as pro-choice (down from 56 percent in 2001). Obama or Romney could employ a practical approach to abortion reduction as a way to attract swing voters.
Romney’s website sidesteps the economic and social realities of abortion. On his page about Values, the site reads, “in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America.” And yet the response to what it calls the “tragic” taking of innocent life include overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing health care workers to follow their conscience. Additionally, it calls for ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood (which not only offers abortion services but also potentially helps reduce abortion through access to contraception—and Romney articulates no plan to provide prenatal care or contraception if Planned Parenthood were to lose funding). His website offers negative solutions, solutions that address the legal aspects of abortion without addressing the social and economic realities for women who face unintended pregnancies and need help.
Obama’s website, as far as I can tell, sidesteps the issue of abortion altogether. In the “Get the Facts” section, he offers data on women’s health, which includes contraception but no reference to abortion services. And yet on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, in addition to articulating his continued support of this federal law, Obama said, “While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue—no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.” Obama has an opportunity to draw in pro-life independent voters if he is willing to reiterate this litany of pragmatic ways to address the reality of abortion in this country.
Typical liberal ideology surrounding abortion focuses on the woman’s right to choose without any conversation about the ethical problems that emerge on both an individual and collective level when women choose to terminate a nascent human life. Typical conservative ideology focuses on the unborn baby’s right to life without conversation about the ethical problems that emerge, again, both individually and collectively, when women face the economic, physical, and emotional hardship of unplanned pregnancies.
All the while, abortion remains legal and most Americans support some limitations on abortion, which suggests that most Americans would support policies that focused not upon eradicating abortion but upon reducing it. What might happen if a political leader tried to have a conversation about protections for woman and baby? What if Romney and Obama each proposed policy measures that addressed not the legality of abortion but its economic and social impact upon our culture?
We’ve argued long enough about the legality of abortion. Let’s start creating policies that actually support and protect women and children. Let’s look for politicians who can lead us towards a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions chosen by women each year.
Read more opinions from Amy Julia Becker.
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Friday, March 9th, 2012
Women’s health clinics in Texas–including those that do not perform abortions–are getting caught up in the political fight to stop funding of abortion providers, leaving many low-income women with dwindling options for routine exams, birth control pills, and breast cancer screenings.
The New York Times reports that the Republican-controlled legislature has cut funding for women’s health in the state by two-thirds:
The cuts, which left many low-income women with inconvenient or costly options, grew out of the effort to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood. Although the cuts also forced clinics that were not affiliated with the agency to close — and none of them, even the ones run by Planned Parenthood, performed abortions — supporters of the cutbacks said they were motivated by the fight against abortion.
Now, the same sentiment is likely to lead to a shutdown next week of another significant source of reproductive health care: the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which serves 130,000 women with grants to many clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood. Gov. Rick Perry and Republican lawmakers have said they would forgo the $35 million in federal money that finances the women’s health program in order to keep Planned Parenthood from getting any of it.
Although Texas already bars clinics that take such money from performing abortions, the new law is intended to prevent any state money from benefiting Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthoods across the country provide abortions, are affiliated with abortion providers, or refer women to abortion providers,” said Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry.
Wayne Christian, a Republican state representative said, “I don’t think anybody is against providing health care for women. What we’re opposed to are abortions.” He added, “Planned Parenthood is the main organization that does abortions. So we kind of blend being anti-abortion with being anti-Planned Parenthood.”
Image: Woman in doctor’s waiting room, via Shutterstock.
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