By Kim Hubbard
With the advance of modern medicine, experts know more and more about the status of preborn children. More is known about the health of preborn children and their anticipated health at the time of delivery. Unfortunately, this has also been a cause for medical professionals to suggest the termination of pregnancies when a preborn individual is suspected of having an abnormality.
As medical science continues to advance, the chance of us having a friend or family member facing this difficulty is an increasing one. We may have a chance to speak to parents confronted with this decision. My goal here is to provide the reader with things to consider when speaking to parents who have been given this bleak advice to abort. I write based on the assumption that the Bible is 100 percent accurate. I also have Cerebral Palsy. I have a degree in education and have worked extensively with individuals with severe to profound disabilities, as well as with their families.
Considering the parents’ worldview
The number one thing that must be considered is the worldview of the preborn child’s parents. If they do not believe in God, then they will consider human life to be random. Since life on earth is all there is for them, it will be more of a challenge to convince them otherwise. However, for the atheist, this could also be a good time for a Christian to speak about the love God has for them and their preborn child. It might be a good time to share the gospel of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It would be good to pray that this hardship might draw them into a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is important that the parents know you are praying for them, their baby, and their decision. It is good to affirm your belief in the passage from Ecclesiastes 11:5: “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”
While it might be assumed that a Christian would never consider an abortion, one would be wise to remember that the parents may feel pressured by their doctor, family members, and/or friends not to bring the child into the world. Satan could be using this as a way to have a believer abandon his or her beliefs. The parents should have Christian friends that realize the stress they are under and realize that there may be some confusion about the life altering decision they must make. Gently share your belief that every human being’s life begins at creation as well as your fundamental belief in the Sovereignty of God. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Pray often with them and for them and their baby. Without violating the privacy of these parents, share their needs with praying friends, making sure you do not give any names. Engaging prayer partners for this entire family is essential, regardless of the parents’ worldview.
Faith-based practical advice
There is no way to assure parents that having a child born with a medical condition will be easy or pain free for anyone involved, but I can offer the following considerations and suggestions.
Doctors and tests are not infallible. There are cases where babies are born without the conditions predicted. If you know of any such cases, share the details while leaving out names. You can also research the suspected condition and cases where the tests were wrong, sharing these stories.
- Tell the parents to take their time making this decision and not to let anyone rush or pressure them. Remind them that, in the years to come, the guilt of an abortion is unlikely to haunt doctors or friends, but will never leave the parents.
- Recommend that the opinion of at least one other doctor be sought, with special consideration given to a high-risk pregnancy specialist.
- Remind the parents that the field of medicine and technology are rapidly advancing. Cure(s) for certain abnormalities might be found. Advances in technology are making the lives of individuals with disabilities easier to handle. This is particularly true in the area of communication.
The following are some concerns that parents will probably have when making this decision based on a predicted abnormality and ways to address these concerns.
Will my baby suffer? All humans suffer at some time or another, but medical professionals are excellent at alleviating pain. If the baby is not expected to live long after birth, hospice can be used to comfort the baby and the family. If the baby survives into childhood, and even into adulthood, there are support groups that can offer resources and share common experiences. It might be beneficial to try to find other parents who chose life for their children and ask them to encourage the undecided parents.
What about medical expenses? Knowing where the family lives could help in finding a hospital that provides necessary medical services at a reduced rate. Also, the parents need to know that state and federal assistance are often available.
How will having a child with a disability affect our family? There is no way to give a comprehensive answer to this question. I think it is fair to tell parents that having a child with special needs can be hard on a married couple, but there is accessible support. Respite care is often available so that parents and/or siblings can have occasional time away from caregiving. Day programs are available for the child or adult who does not meet criteria for public schools. Having a sibling with a disability can cause the other siblings to learn compassion and understanding.
What if this is not something I/we as parents are willing to do? At this point, the need has become obvious to inform the parents that if they feel inadequate to parent a child with special needs, there are individuals that are willing to adopt children with these challenges. This is a good time to put them in touch with agencies that can assist with such adoptions.
Is this our fault? Jesus answers this question in John 9:1-3: “And as he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.’” This verse shows that no child is afflicted with anything that God will not use to display His strength through weakness.
Having discussions about these subjects will probably be difficult, but we as Christians need to have the kind of heart that will cause parents to come to us for gentle, loving, Biblical, and prayerful advice. Here are some websites that can help with parents facing such a decision:
Support for carrying to term with an adverse prenatal diagnosis and for raising your child with special needs as well as resources for adoption agencies with clients waiting to adopt a special needs child
Support for families carrying to term after a severe or fatal prenatal diagnosis
Comprehensive, practical, and peer-based support for parents experiencing a prenatal diagnosis and carrying to term
Resource for perinatal hospice and palliative care programs
Kim Hubbard is married to Mark, and they hope to celebrate 25 years of marriage next April. Kim has a degree in education and has spent many years working professionally with adults who have severe to profound disabilities. She is currently a volunteer at a pregnancy resource center.