A Mother’s Act of Love to Save Her Unborn Child

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

A Mother’s Act of Love to Save Her Unborn Child

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by Justin Torres
June 1, 2005

LifeNews.com Note: Justin Torres is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and research director of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. This article first appeared on the web site TheFactIs.org.

There’s a truism in conservative politics that abortion is everything. Clinton’s impeachment was a proxy fight over abortion (the feminists were trying to save the bacon of the most reliably pro-abortion administration in history, thus demonstrating that they cared more for the ghastly procedure than the oppressed sisterhood). Certainly, the fight over the "nuclear option" was all about abortion and the Supreme Court.

Even some members of the left have begun to question the Democratic party’s rigid adherence to the turgid politics of Roe v. Wade, and the way that adherence has distorted Democratic positions on everything from schools to labor to international aid. (For an example, see Benjamin Wittes’s penetrating "Letting go of Roe," in the February 2005 Atlantic Monthly.)

An evil like abortion, though, is apt to distort more than simply our politics. My family has been given a tragic lesson in this truth recently.

As some readers may know, on May 6, my sister-in-law Susan Torres – 26 years old, a mother of a 2-year-old boy, and 17 weeks pregnant – suffered a stroke brought on by undiagnosed melanoma. At this time, she lies brain dead in a Northern Virginia hospital, with no hope of ever recovering, her breathing sustained by machine.

In this midst of this tragedy and the grief that lingers like a context, like a fog, over every conversation and meal and moment in the hospital, we have hope. Doctors believe that they may be able to save this baby, keeping Susan alive long enough to deliver the child prematurely. It is no more than a fighting chance, far less than a certainty, that the baby will live. But we have hope. Keeping this baby alive is Susan’s last act of love, one that has been tremendously moving to watch even as it makes you question everything you thought you knew about the fundamental justice of the world.

But this is where abortion, and the utilitarian mindset that it engenders concerning the sanctity of human life, steals its way into this tragedy. I think of it as "the moment," the little whisper of hesitation, shared not just by the doctors but even by my family. It’s the moment in which you think, is this right? Are we doing the right thing? Wouldn’t it just be better to let go, start over, find closure?

Once the soothing cliche’s start, it is difficult to make them stop. You have to force yourself to remember: this is a child’s life. And children are always a good thing, devoutly to be wished for and fiercely to be fought for.

For my family, the moment was no more than a hiccup. Still, it is clear that for some of the doctors involved in this case, the decisions my brother and Susan’s parents have made are foolish. That is the effect of abortion: that it has in various, subtle ways sapped the intrinsic human impulse to fight for the good of children.

I don’t wish to be too harsh, and I certainly do not wish to suggest that these doctors – many of whom have taken enormous and personal interest in Susan’s case – are in any way agents of the culture of death. These doctors are trained to assess chances and deploy resources where they are most effective. I respect that. We are here to fight; it’s their job to tell us the truth and give us their realistic assessment. And many of them are fighting alongside us, to my immense gratitude.

But I wonder. Fifty years ago, medicine could not have done what we are trying to do. But I suspect that if it could have been done, no one then would have hesitated. The answer would have been, Of course, we must try to save the child, because saving children is what medicine is meant to do.

Thirty years after Roe, we have not yet fully come to understand all the ways that abortion has distorted our culture, coarsened it, made it less loving and less noble. The moment of hesitation I describe is the culture of death whispering insinuations at us. It is important that we continue to shout truth from the rooftops to drown out its voice.