Abby Flanagan and her husband wanted to start a family right away when they got married. And they were so happy when, five months into their marriage, a pregnancy test showed positive.
The Massachusetts couple’s joy turned to pain during their 17-week ultrasound when their doctors said their unborn baby girl was “incompatible with life.” A week later, Flanagan aborted their unborn child with the full knowledge that she was ending her daughter’s life.
Flanagan shared her story with WBUR, the NPR affiliate in Boston, this week and argued that abortion regulations hurt women like her who choose to have abortions. She blasted Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice presidential running mate of Donald Trump, for supporting pro-life laws in his state. One regulation requires that women be offered the chance to hear their unborn baby’s heartbeat. Another prohibits abortions on unborn babies who are diagnosed with disabilities like Down syndrome.
Flanagan argued that those types of laws do not help women; they only cause more pain.
Before my abortion, I’d had 11 ultrasounds. During the final scan, there was no medical need for me to listen to my baby’s heartbeat. The only purpose of putting me through that would have been to reinforce the fact that the baby was alive and to intimidate me into choosing not to terminate the pregnancy. I was painfully aware that my baby was alive and that my choice to have an abortion would end her life. I didn’t need a 12th ultrasound to tell me that, and a 12th ultrasound wouldn’t have changed my mind.
Flanagan said she started bleeding when she was 12 weeks pregnant with her daughter. Tests and scans revealed that her unborn child had significant health problems. Doctors said her baby girl’s kidneys and lungs were not developing, and she would never be able to breathe.
At her 17-week ultrasound appointment, Flanagan said she received news that she both expected and dreaded: Her child was “incompatible with life.”
She wrote: “And it was over. Just like that. No growing belly. No first kicks for my husband to feel. No baby shower. No rushed drive to the hospital when labor started. No first night at home with a newborn. All that was left was the when and where of a surgical abortion.”
One week later, Flanagan had her unborn daughter aborted at a hospital in Boston. She justified the decision as a compassionate one that prevented her daughter from suffering.
“Having an abortion and ending her life to save her from suffering and slowly dying inside of me was my last act of love as her mother,” Flanagan wrote.
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No parent wants to see their child suffer, and abortion activists appeal to that strong desire in parents when they argue that abortion should be legal through all nine months. They have convinced Flanagan and so many other hurting, devastated parents that the most compassionate thing they can do is to have someone kill their child before birth.
Abortions do not prevent unborn babies from suffering, though. They are brutal, often painful procedures for unborn babies. Fatal fetal abnormalities, disabilities and other problems often are not diagnosed until the 20th week of pregnancy, and strong scientific evidence indicates that unborn babies at this stage can feel excruciating pain. Other research indicates unborn babies may be capable of feeling pain as early as eight weeks.
Whether inside or outside of the womb, children with health problems or fatal disorders deserve the best care and treatment that society can provide — not death. They should not have to suffer, but death is not the only way or best way to prevent them from pain.
More programs are offering families support when an unborn baby or an infant has a fatal diagnosis. Perinatal hospice programs offer physical and emotional support to these babies and their families, including counseling, help with funeral arrangements, photographers to take family photos with the baby at the hospital, mementos to remember the baby by, and more. These services help to minimize suffering and encourage families to treasure the short time they have with their child.