Illinois Legislator Jeanne Ives: Why I Chose Life for My Terminally Ill Unborn Baby

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 16, 2018   |   8:14AM   |   Springfield, IL

Illinois state Rep. Jeanne Ives recently shared her heartbreaking experience of losing her newborn son to a terminal illness.

Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Ives responded to another mother who argued in favor of late-term abortions for terminally ill infants.

“A just, merciful and compassionate society cares for those who suffer, including pre-born babies with serious and even fatal conditions and family members who lose their beloved babies on the day they first meet,” Ives wrote. “And caring for very sick babies like our son Mark does not entail killing them.”

Ives is a pro-life Republican who is challenging pro-abortion Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

In 2002 when she was pregnant with her fifth child, Ives said she discovered that something was wrong at her 20-week ultrasound appointment. Doctors told her that her son Mark had a diaphragmatic hernia, an often fatal condition in which the diaphragm splits and sometimes prevents the lungs from developing.

Ives wrote:

At that point, our high-risk pregnancy doctor strongly suggested we abort the baby. In our conversation, the doctor spoke as if that were the obvious, most reasonable option. The thought of aborting Mark entered my mind for a few brief moments. How convenient, no one needs to think about this anymore, no increased medical expenses, no carrying the baby for 20 more weeks, no painful choice on how to respond to cheerful comments about my impending birth. The problem would just go away, and I could get back to caring for our other four boys.

But those moments passed quickly. I knew the decision to end Mark’s life was neither mine nor my husband’s to make. And thankfully my pro-life doctor knew this too. Dr. Michael Hussey took me aside and said we are going to see this baby through to his natural end.

The next four months were extremely difficult. Ives said she cried every day as she felt Mark kicking and moving inside her. Still, she said she and her husband were resolved that their unborn son deserved to live until his natural death.

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Mark arrived on April 28, 2002, and had 45 minutes outside the womb with his family before he died. Ives said they took pictures with him, dressed him, had him baptized and “treated him with the dignity he deserved as a human being created in the image and likeness of God.”

“The healing did begin for our family, but I don’t believe it would have been complete had we chosen to take his life prematurely,” she said.

“I understood more acutely than ever before the inescapable truth that suffering is part of this life, and it does not discriminate,” Ives continued. “What matters most in those dark and often lonely moments of fear and grief is how we respond to what sometimes feels like an unendurable burden.”

Today, many heartbroken parents like Ives find comfort through perinatal hospice programs, which provide information and support to terminally ill unborn babies and their families. These life-affirming programs affirm the dignity and value of every baby’s life, no matter how short.