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Yes she did. And it's turning into a bashing fest over there against the women who asked her to take a second look at early induction. Frankly Alicia, I'm glad you brought it up and I think you were very brave and honest to do so. Thank you.

As someone who's been through exactly her situation, I understand the urge to "get it over with" as soon as possible.

But I have to admit, I was sitting here with my mouth open when I read her comment that "We are strongy pro-life so an abortion is out of the question, so we're going to induce labor instead." But at 21 weeks, inducing labor is a live-birth abortion. It's like saying, "I don't believe in theft, so I'm going to rob a bank." Obviously it's her decision, and there's no win-win scenario, but having gone through a pregnancy where the baby was guaranteed not to survive, I have to say it was better to have the extra 20 weeks with my daughter and to give others a chance to love her and pray for her, to let the hand of God support us when we didn't think we could stand on our own, and to experience unconditional love from the giving side.

She'll need support regardless. I just wonder what her other children will think--if they'll believe that as soon as they are imperfect, she'll give up on them too. :-(

I can understand Annie's desire to be left to make her decision without others second-guessing her. I know she is strongly prolife and I'm confident that she has been consulting good people. And there is nothing in the moral law that says that the decision she has made is absolutely immoral. It really falls under the category of the principle of double effect - and it is not a late term abortion, since it does not seek the death of the child as an end, or use it as a means. Here's how it works:

The desired end sought by the action would be Annies health and wellbeing. The means is induction, the side effect is the baby's birth and the side effect of the side effect is the baby's death. Since the end is not evil, but good, and the means is not evil but neutral (she is not directly killing her child) and the secondary side effect is unavoidable (the child will die anyway, whether this action is taken or not, and is in some sense already dead, having no brain activity - much like a totally brain dead patient on life support), there can be no moral judgement made on this decision, at least not by anybody but God. It belongs to the reign of prudential judgement.

Granted, many women have found it healing and beneficial to carry such infants to term, just as many families have found it healing and beneficial to allow their brain dead (truly brain dead, not Terri Schiavo so called brain dead) children, parents, or spouse stay in a vegetative state long after brain death has been diagnosed. All the same, the judgement of when to pull the plug on a life that has already essentially fled is prudentially left up to the family, and to their informed conscience.

Its definately an issue worth discussing as the rest of us form our consciences, but we ought to respect Annie's wishes to have this discussion somewhere other than her blog, and let her know that we trust her judgment and love her and her baby.

Just my 2cents,


To tell you the truth Kate, I'm not sure that I do trust that she has been consulting "good people." It's not a big secret that there are many Catholic priests out there that will take the easy route when it comes to birth control or abortion. It's not a big secret that many Catholics in the medical profession aren't as well catechized on faith and moral issues as they should be. Also given the fact that a Catholic perspective is being mocked and deleted from that discussion - I have HUGE doubts that the input she is getting is all "good."

I also have some qualms about your use of double effect and I would really appreciate Alicia's perspective on this. When I was carrying a dead baby in my body for a couple of weeks, I was told there was a risk of coagulopathy but it wasn't a huge risk. I also have a very good friend with a terminal baby who carried almost to term and delivered via C-section and was healthy throughout the pregnancy and afterward.

So as a professional midwife, perhaps Alicia could speak to the real risks of carrying a child like this to term, or until natural labor sets in. AND also, what other treatments besides induction could treat these potential risks.

Amen, thank you Alicia and Jane.

Kate, I'm sorry, but you are NOT thinking with the mind of the Church here. There are one or two theologians who may have the audicity declare that fetuses with anencephaly (which is not the diagnosis for this poor baby, anyway) will never be fully alive and therefore are "abortable", but they do not represent *any* legitimate theological perspective but their own silly, malformed opinions.

The baby in question is not asking any more of her mom than any other baby in utero. For someone to say that she is just on life support (a commenter) is ridiculous -- since every baby at 20 wks is on "life support" -- and we know not which baby will be stillborn, die before birth, or even die just minutes after birth -- nor do we know that the baby in question will die before birth. She may well have 2 hrs of life, or even much, much more, as Donna Joy Watts has (you can search to see that she had numerous neurological and brain defects).

We do not treat a pregnancy differently (theologically) just because the baby will not live. With the exception of ectopic and other types of problems where the baby presents an *imminent* threat to the mom, a baby with incompatible w/ life neural defects is no different than carrying any other "healthy" baby. There may be complications like excessive fluid, but there are treatments for this, and don't of themselves present that necessary "imminent" threat that the Church speaks of.

Finally, no one knows that God is asking anyone to carry a sick baby to term. We only know that He is asking a mom to carry that baby today. He may take the baby tomorrow (and often he does). He may well ask another 20 weeks. Just as in any situation, the truly loving thing to do is to encourage someone to say "yes" to each day carrying their child, and ultimately to God. I was extremely discouraged to see how many catholic (I guess?) posters support the early induction, and seem completely unaware that it *is* an abortion.

Finally#2 - there doesn't seem to have been much time btw final diagnosis and decision. I would strongly encourage friends of the mom to just look over the links she posts on her own blog. If she goes to Nurses for Life (posted on her blog), she'll see that this very much is not a course of action supported by the Church. If she goes to Jane's Anencephaly group, she will see many examples of ordinary women doing something extra-ordinary, because it was what love demanded. If she goes to, she can read about Lori Watts, and other moms who were told that there would be a threat to their health, but carried their babies regardless. She just needs to know that while the whole thing seems terribly overwhelming and impossible, she only needs to accept the grace for it one day at a time.

For those who know her, please tell her that ALL are praying for her, even those who fundamentally disagree with the choice she seems to have made.

Sincerely, Monica

I've never seen a mom really threatened by carrying to term, so the moms who are saying their very lives were in jeopardy if they continued the pregnancy are either misinformed or overstating their cases. Polyhydramniosis is a problem for some moms, but the fluid can be drained, and labor can be induced early if the buildup is very severe. Regardless, that condition can be monitored with a tape measure, something done at every prenatal visit anyhow. I fail to see how triploidy or a chromosomal problem will cause immediate threats to the health of the mother. They can and should be monitoring *every* mother for preeclampsia and fetal growth anyhow. If the baby were to go into distress, that can be detected with more-frequent visits or even monitoring with an at-home doppler. All of that is relatively low-tech, and the baby can be born immediately if any problems begin to show up.

Double-effect doesn't apply here because the death of the baby is the "solution," not a byproduct of it. A hysterectomy for uterine cancer will kill the fetus, but the death of the fetus isn't the cure for uterine cancer. In this case, the death of the baby by delivering the pregnancy is the "solution" to the problem of the baby's ill health.

If a newborn baby were diagnosed with a condition that would kill him in four months, and the parents injected the baby with a mixture of bleach and PCPs in order to hasten the baby's death so as to spare everyone the burden of caring for a dying baby, I think readers would be horrified. For some reason, people think it's different because the baby isn't born yet, even though a newborn is also 100% dependent on others for his life and safety.

Jesus said that whatsoever we do to the least of his people, we've done it for him. I would like to think Jesus thanks moms who go to term for WELCOMING him into their lives for whatever time they can. Not scheduling a time to kick him out the door, but saying, "We know you can't stay long, but while you can, do please stay and be a part of our lives. Let us get to know you while we can so we can say goodbye when you leave."

There is NO principle of double effect here guys. This woman can be monitored for her health throughout the pregnancy, just as with any other pregnant woman, and with additional testing if needed (blood work and ultrasounds). I know of NO condition that the baby has that would immediately and perhaps fatally impact the health or life of the woman.

The fact that the baby has a condition incompatable with life does not change that "inducing early" is, in fact, an abortion. Plain and simple. It is ending a life that has already started.

People can rationalize all they want. It is awful for the woman I am sure and I don't mean to sound harsh. At this point all we can do is pray for her to come to the realization that her baby is depending on her for the life that she has left. If there comes a point that her life is indeed in immediate danger, then it is a different story. Until then, the word "choice" is a factor that should not be in the equation.

It is unfortunate that some people, doctors, priests or not, have given her incorrect information about what the Church says on this subject. We should pray for them too because they will be held even more accountable because they have given this advice when they should know what the truth is.

I'm just heartsick about this. I laid awake last night and couldn't get to sleep, I was just so upset by this news, and their decision. May God be with them and guide them. I've lost a baby in 2nd trimester, and it was devastating. I can't imagine what they must be going through. I can't imagine making the same decision, though :( Pray hard....

I have to admit that my first reaction to seeing how hurt and confused Annie is was to tell everybody to leave her alone. She obviously grieves for this child, and perhaps her negative reaction to the advice and information some have been giving her is a reaction to the use of the term 'abortion' for a decisiont that she obviously doesn't think is equivalent - with Anne's background, that word by itself is inflammatory.

I certainly hope and pray that Annie gets the best advice and support possible. I hope that there is a perinatal hospice group in her area that her doctors or parish can refer her to. I have known couples in this situation before who carried to term, and I know it has been a eral blessing to them, especialy when they have had good counseling and care.

I do wonder though...Anne has said repeatedly on her blog now that her babies condition 'is not ancephely' as she understands it. I don't know anything about this medical condition, and I certainly don't know what Annie has been told about her child's condition, but if the child has a condition in which there is no brain development or possibility of brain activity, can the child be said to be alive?

I can see that this is more complicated a question then an end of life issue, where at least we know conclusively that the person was alive prior to brain death and can point to a cut off point (was alive here, died at this point, and we act in the belief that a total lack of brain activity indicates that the soul has left the body) whereas in prenatal instances we don't even know conclusively when ensoulment occurs - the prolife argument against abortion is mostly an argument from prudence (since we can't say conclusively when life (ensoulment) begins, we had better not tamper with it at all rather than take the risk of being wrong and taking an innocent life).

I hadn't thought this through this far when I posted earlier, because I couldn't see how Annie's decision could be so threatening to so many others. But, of course, if we use the brain activity measurement at the beginning of life as well as the end, then every prenatal infant would be at risk during that very early developmental period when brain activity is immeasurable.

And of course, we don't have a clear cut -off (brain activity here, then brain death a few days later) in the case of a developmental deformity - so if we say that Annies baby is not really alive now, would we be saying it never was alive at all?

Too deep for me. I am grateful it is not my responsibility to discern the ins and outs of this situation, and I am glad it is not my responsibility to judge Annie's actions. Maybe better minds than mine can juggle this tricky "what is life" question. It's obvious that virtual people are not going to be able to hold much weight with Annie right now, which is hardly surprising. Few of us are good at accepting unlooked for advice from invisible strangers.I think I'll go back to praying for Annie now, and offering what little support I can give and she can accept.

I've just had it pointed out with me that I may have a couple of different Annie's confused here, so if anything I've said doesn't make sense, just accept that I'm in too deep on more than one level. ;-) Like I mentioned in my Lenten post on my blog, God seems to have some interest in humbling me this year.

I had someone (a doctor) tell me my anencephalic daughter was "not a human being" and that I should treat her that way. I guess like a lamp or a couch. Once it's broken, get rid of it.

I fail to see it that way, naturally. :-) Emily had a hole in her head and they couldn't detect any brain formation on ultrasound, but she reacted to loud noises, learned to respond in one specific way to one specific set of words (I swear I am not making that up!) and when she was born, it turned out she had rudimentary hemispheres. Not enough to live longer than two hours, but there nonetheless. She recognized my voice and turned her head to seek me out when she was in my arms. They can't say she was never "alive" at all (in the soul-version of being alive) because she had quirks and a personality that I worked hard to get to know. When she was born, she really had an air of paying attention to all of us, at least until it got too hard for her and she dozed off (and never awoke again.)

Of course Anne's in shock--the week after the diagnosis is a total shock. My husband and I shouldn't have been allowed to drive or operate complicated machinery (like, say, a stapler) during the week after our daughter's diagnosis. And yet doctors push for parents to decide IMMEDIATELY what they will do about their child's future at a point in time when most women open the refrigerator and find themselves flummoxed by the choice between skim milk and 1% milk. (Again, right out of my own experience.) No one is going to get the finer points of philosophy in that moment. And there's no need to make an immediate decision. If the decision *had* to be made immediately, if for example the mother's blood pressure was skyrocketing or the mom was gushing blood by the buckets, then there would be no decision at all. The only reason parents have to "decide" is that the pregnancy could continue uneventfully until natural labor, and doctors feel parents would be wasting their time, as if spending your time with someone you love is wasting it.

At any rate, all one can do is pray for parents in that situation, offer the guidance that faith has to offer, and then step back. I have never met a mom who regretted going to term, but I have met moms who bitterly regretted inducing early--and that's the worst thing. It's heartbreaking. I hope Anne never experiences any of those regrets.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on February 19, 2005 4:53 PM.

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