Could Perinatal Hospice Have Prevented Woman’s Abortion Death?

National   William Saunders and Veronika Johannsen   Feb 15, 2013   |   1:19PM    Washington, DC

In the wake of the recent tragic deaths of Jennifer Morbelli and her 33-week-old preborn baby girl, allegedly at the hands of late-term abortionist Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Jill Stanek reported on her blog that the decision to abort came two weeks after the Morbelli’s learned their unborn daughter suffered from fetal anomalies.

With the rise of prenatal testing, early detection of fetal anomaly is becoming more and more prevalent in order to provide parents and doctors with information about an unborn baby’s health and development. There are a variety of different anomalies that can be fatal or non-fatal for preborn babies, but unfortunately the “solution” sometimes chosen for both is abortion. For example, a study by Dr. Brian Skotko reported on ABC News indicates that over 92 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, a non-fatal genetic abnormality, are aborted.

Other types of fetal anomalies yield a fatal outcome for the unborn baby. These lethal fetal anomalies mean certain death for the unborn baby, from mere hours to weeks after its birth. Studies indicate over 80 percent of couples choose to abort the baby in cases of fatal fetal anomalies.

According to Dr. Mary Davenport of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, most ultrasound studies of fetal anatomy to detect certain fatal anomalies cannot be performed until 18-20 weeks. Due to this late diagnosis in the second and third trimesters, those parents who choose abortion also drastically increase the risks to the mother’s physical and mental well-being. Despite those risks, many parents choose to abort because they feel they have no other choice – it’s either do nothing and helplessly watch their baby die, or actively end its suffering.

So what can be done to ease the sting parents feel from their unborn child’s fatal diagnosis and prevent them from wrongly concluding abortion is their only option?

Perinatal hospice offers a life-affirming alternative to parents of babies who have a fatal prognosis. Unfortunately, services like perinatal hospice care are relatively unknown throughout the United States. In fact, only two states – Arizona and Minnesota – currently provide information on perinatal hospice as part of their informed consent materials.

In response to this, Americans United for Life has created model legislation entitled the “Perinatal Hospice Information Act” that can easily be incorporated to a state’s existing informed consent laws. This information is crucial to aiding families and ensuring they are fully informed of all of their health care options.

Perinatal hospice offers a compassionate network of support to assist the family during their time of grief. Perinatal hospice exists to serve families as they cope with the diagnosis of their unborn baby by providing extensive support from the time of diagnosis, throughout the pregnancy, and during and after birth. Families who choose perinatal hospice are surrounded by a team of loving caregivers who tailor their care to fit the wants and desires of the individual family. Antepartum (before birth) care ensures the freedom of the family to have a direct hand in dealing with an assortment of obstetricians, neonatologists, intensive-care nurses, and chaplains or pastors.

The family is also given multiple ultrasound opportunities so parents can experience the life of their child as a means of welcoming it into their family and experience the life of the child before it is born.

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During labor and delivery, perinatal hospice provides the family with extensive support and labor management common in other deliveries. Once the baby is born, postpartum care is customized to fit the child and family, allowing parents and family members to collect mementos of the baby (such as hand and foot molds) and optimize their time with the child. This stage of care provides a comforting environment until the natural death of the baby occurs. Healthcare providers are available to assist the family during the passing of their child and cope with the grieving process so they do not feel like they are going through it alone.

The good news is that studies reveal approximately 80 percent of parents choose this care when presented with the option. The experience of people who choose perinatal hospice is likely to be similar to that experienced by Rick Santorum and his wife, Karen. In the words of Karen Santorum, mother of Gabriel, a baby boy diagnosed with a birth defect and delivered at 20 weeks: “[Gabriel’s] life was so brief, yet his impact so great. In two hours we experienced a lifetime of emotions. Love, sorrow, regret, joy—-all were packed into that brief span. To have rejected that experience would have been to reject life itself.”