Saturday, 22 August 2009

Anencephalic babies need an amnesty

In Brazil, the government's attorney-general has argued in an opinion before the supreme court that women should be allowed to abort anencephalic babies - babies without an upper brain. The Catholic Church and pro-life groups are of course opposing the government's move. SPUC is consulting with colleagues in the region to see what British pro-lifers can do to protect such babies in Brazil. In 1988 Alison Davis of No Less Human wrote a paper for the Journal of Medical Ethics upholding the right to life of anencephalic babies (please email me if you would like a copy). Here are some key extracts from Alison's paper:
  • "Sadly, anencephalics have few people to speak out in defence of their short lives."
  • "I believe that each human life is of infinite value, and since infinity cannot be multiplied or divided, remaining always implicit in its infinity, so too is all human life precious and worthy of protection, no matter how long or short it may be."
  • "Length of life is quite irrelevant to this, and the law on homicide is definite on this point"
  • "If brain stem death is the criterion for other human beings to be accepted as organ donors, anencephalics are being regarded as exceptions to the rule only because they are weaker, which is clearly a political rather than a moral decision. Until their brain stem ceases to function they are no more dead than anyone else in this condition. They are genetically human children"
  • "If human rights depend only on the size of our brains, or whether certain nerves and muscles work, we cross the line very definitely from individual worth to an inevitable and irrevocable linking between 'rights' and 'utility'."
SPUC has been sent the unpublished testimony of a mother of an anencephalic child. Here are some extracts from that testimony:
"[W]hat I would really like to tell is the preciousness of the months that followed up to and including the birth and death of our son.

"We named him immediately [after diagnosis in the womb] and spent the next few months giving him as much love as we could. From day to day, we had no guarantee of how much longer we had with him, so I found myself enjoying the pregnancy in a way I never had before. Where normally I would be counting down the days towards the due date, each day of this pregnancy was a bonus.

"Our son was born on 2 Nov 07 at 10.43pm. He lived for 17 mins. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I saw him first. Two things struck me overwhelmingly: Love and compassion - love for this little boy who was perfect to me, and compassion at seeing his brokenness. I was grateful to have known of [our son’s] anencaphaly in advance because there was no shock at the time of birth, just the knowledge that this is my limited window of opportunity to love my son.

"The mother is the giver of life to the child in every way. That is what makes being a mother such a dignity. Here is an opportunity to give a child all the love and all the care he or she will ever know in the space of a few months and then let the child move on. For me as a parent there is no greater reward than knowing I gave all I could to [our son] in the short months I had him."
The strength of these arguments and testimony provides yet another reason why SPUC is calling for an Amnesty for Babies before birth - please see and act on my blog-post yesterday.

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