Women give many different reasons for having abortions, from lack of financial or emotional support, to career/education goals to a feeling of unreadiness to parent. Christy Zink, who testified in front of a U.S. Senate committee on March 15, said she aborted her son at 22 weeks of pregnancy “out of love.”
Abortion activists used Zink’s story to lobby against a bill that would protect unborn babies from painful late-term abortions. The Senate is considering a piece of legislation named the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks when scientific evidence shows unborn babies can feel pain.
Zink told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill would have stopped her from being able to abort her unborn son. She said she chose to abort him at 22 weeks after learning that he had a brain disorder, and she did not want him to have a life of suffering.
According to a transcription of Zink’s remarks at LiveAction News:
When I was 21 weeks pregnant, an MRI revealed that our baby was missing the central connecting structure of the two parts of his brain. A specialist diagnosed the baby with agenesis of the corpus callosum. What allows the brain to function as a whole was simply absent. But that wasn’t all. Part of the baby’s brain had failed to develop. Where the typical human brain presents a lovely, rounded symmetry, our baby had small, globular splotches. In effect, our baby was missing one side of his brain.
… If a 20-week ban had been passed before my pregnancy, I would have had to carry to term and give birth to a baby whom the doctors concurred had no chance of a life and would have experienced near-constant pain if he survived. His condition would require surgeries to remove more of what little brain matter he had, to diminish what would otherwise be a state of near-constant seizures. Wires, tubes, electricity, machines, scalpels, surgery, pain and more pain. My daughter’s life, too, would have been irrevocably hurt by an almost always-absent parent.
… The decision I made to have an abortion at almost 22 weeks was made out of love and to spare my son’s pain and suffering…. [T]he abortion care I received was safe, expert, gentle, and compassionate.
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… It’s in honor of my son that I’m here today, speaking on his behalf. I am also fighting for all women, to have the same right to access safe, legal, high quality abortion care when we need to beyond 20 weeks—even for those women who could never imagine they’d have to make this choice.
Zink’s story is doubly tragic because her unborn son likely felt excruciating pain when she aborted him – the pain that she said she was trying to save him from experiencing. During the same committee hearing, leading neonatologist Dr. Colleen A. Malloy testified that most medical literature supports the evidence that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks or even earlier.
Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into fetal pain. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain. He has testified before Congress in the past that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.” Researchers also have found that unborn babies respond to touch as early as six weeks.
Zink’s motives are troubling. If she wanted to spare her son from pain, she could have sought out medical treatment and pain management for him throughout his life. Medical researchers are discovering new ways to provide relief for chronic pain sufferers. Instead, she defined her son’s life by his disability and the pain he could suffer, and decided that his life wasn’t worth living.
Cassy Fiano, writing at LiveAction, pointed out another troubling issue with Zink’s argument: “Zink also speaks about how the birth of a severely disabled child would have negatively impacted her daughter, but why? What her daughter would have witnessed was a mother who loved her child no matter what and was willing to fight for them. Zink could have modeled unconditional love for her daughter; instead, she showed her daughter that her love was very much conditional.”
Zink and others fighting against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act are in the minority. A national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger. Only 30% said they would oppose such a law.