Learning To Count

On May 6 the Los Angeles Times published one of the most devastating [for me, not the writer] columns that I have seen in quite a while. The writer, Dan Neil, was the father of four children, but his column details how he and his wife chose to abort two boys, which left them with two girls.

He says they did not want the abortions and did not do anything wrong because they actually did everything right. One presumes he means that because they pursued in vitro feritlization, which did result in their desire for children, the desire was right and so what they proceeded to do was not really all that wrong.

When it was discovered that Dan's wife was carrying four babies, and they were told that multiple pregnancies are risky, they chose to sit in a room as they watched the ultrasound, and saw the needle with potassium choloride find the heart of one of their sons and then the other.

Six minus two equals four — two parents and the two children they chose to allow to live.

Simple math pretty much sums up how Dan and his wife dealt with the agony of their decision. They recognized that they had four children; but chose after a doctor told them that carrying four could damage the mother's health to have two killed.

It seems their fertility treatments worked too well, and as those who dabble in in vitro fertilization and other such technologies hasten to point out, multiple pregnancies (read: babies) are hazardous. The fruits of technology frequently end in direct killing; this is but one of the reasons.

During the same week I found out that the 17-year-old Irish lass who was carrying a baby affected with anencephaly was granted permission by Ireland's High Court to go to Britain to abort her baby. That is what she and her parents wanted.

Two minus one equals one. One young mother who chose death for her baby rather than welcoming the child who was destined to live but a short time.

Death seems to be an easy answer these days for expectant parents who, for one reason or another, find it "necessary" to take care of a problem the only way they seem to know how — kill it.

One has to wonder exactly what has happened to the ability of man to entrust his worries, concerns and suffering to Christ. Where has the world gone wrong? Why is it that these days the simple response to unexpected pregnancy problems always seems to be death for the child rather than unconditional love from the parents?

Stories like these force me to recall the words written by one of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor: "In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness, and tenderness leads to the gas chamber."

Having written those words in 1961, one imagines that today O'Connor might have replaced "tenderness" with "compassion." But either way, the result is tragic indeed.