Perinatal hospice gains acceptance as a life-affirming choice in cases of fetal anomalies

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News

 

The Biden campaign has seized on the story of a Texas woman who crossed state lines for an abortion as the linchpin to victory in the November presidential election. 

Kate Cox in December 2023 sued Texas seeking an emergency abortion after she learned that her unborn child had Trisomy 18, a life-shortening genetic disorder. A court sided with Cox, but the ruling was subsequently overturned by an appeals court.  At 20 weeks pregnant, Cox underwent an abortion in New Mexico, which does not have pro-life laws in place. First Lady Jill Biden hosted Cox as her guest during President Biden’s State of the Union address on March 8.

Biden and other abortion advocates use stories like Cox’s to justify abortion as a humane response to serious fetal anomaly diagnoses. They argue that prematurely ending the baby’s life will prevent suffering and grief.

Fox News recently reported Nebraska and Tennessee – two pro-life states – are considering abortion exceptions in cases of fatal prenatal diagnoses. 

A growing number of mothers, however, are choosing perinatal hospice care as a life-affirming alternative that many say provided them with healing, closure, and even joy in the midst of sorrow.

MAJORITY OF DOCTORS RECOMMEND ABORTION IN SERIOUS FETAL ANOMALY DIAGNOSES

A recent study published by the Family Research Council (FRC) revealed that 55% of expectant mothers who were informed that their unborn child had a life-shortening genetic anomaly were advised by their physicians to seek an abortion.  Just 19% said that they were provided with information about palliative care as an alternative to the life-ending procedure.

Dr. Michael New, Assistant Professor of Social Research at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America, and FRC researchers Mary Szoch and Jennifer Bauwens, reported these and other findings in the first phase results of a study of 11 perinatal hospice programs. Their research included a survey of more than 80 mothers who participated in these programs.

The results showed that the overwhelming majority of the women found the experience to be positive. More than 83% said that they felt that perinatal hospice was “very supportive emotionally.” Sixty-seven percent felt that the services were “very helpful in the grieving process.”

Among the services described by the respondents were grief counseling, photos and mementos of their baby, prayer support, support groups, a birth plan, and a burial or funeral plan.

‘A WORTHWHILE GOAL FOR THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT’

The researchers also found that a significant number of healthcare professionals “either do not know about perinatal hospice or are reluctant to recommend perinatal hospice services to pregnant women who receive adverse prenatal diagnoses.”

“Disappointingly, our study found that a high percentage of women who received an adverse prenatal diagnosis were advised by medical professionals to obtain an abortion. In many cases, women received this advice repeatedly,” the report states, noting that only a small fraction “were…encouraged to carry their pregnancy to term.” Only 25% of the women surveyed said that their insurance covered perinatal hospice.

This is something that New hopes will change with increased awareness about this important service. 

“Increasing the awareness of perinatal hospice among policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the general public is an important and worthwhile goal for the pro-life movement,” New said in an FRC press release. “It will give women who obtain adverse prenatal diagnosis more options and will hopefully result in a higher percentage of these women making the life-affirming choice of perinatal hospice for both themselves and their preborn child.”

‘A FORMIDABLE SURGE OF LOVE’

Currently, there are more than 350 hospitals, hospices, and community-based organizations in the U.S. and abroad that offer perinatal hospice care, according to Perinatal Hospice & Palliative Care, a website that provides support and resources to help parents honor the lives of their babies.

This service is described on the site as “an extraordinary way of caring for the pregnant mother, the baby, the father, and all involved with dignity and compassion and love.”

The response to these programs is overwhelmingly positive, as evidenced by testimonials included on the site.

One mother wrote, “By giving my son the protection of my body to face the announced death, I was giving him life, all of his life, so that it would be recorded in our family, in all of our history, and in the hearts of each of us. It wasn’t a morbid walk but a formidable surge of love.”

Another said, “Maggie’s needs were not like those of my sons. She needed us to give her a safe and peaceful transition from one world to the next. Carrying Maggie to term did that for me—it gave me the opportunity to ‘mother’ her until she didn’t need me anymore. That knowledge made it infinitely easier to make peace with her death.”

Nevertheless, New, Szoch, and Bauwens wrote in an article published by The Hill that abortion is“the medical profession’s preferred practice for children with adverse perinatal diagnoses.”

“This is a problem, first because all life is valuable, and second because not every perinatal diagnosis turns out to be terminal — or even accurate,” they wrote.

SHOCKING NUMBER HEALTHY BABIES ABORTED BASED ON FALSE TEST RESULTS

Szoch pointed out that the FRC study results showed that 14% of unborn babies diagnosed with a serious genetic anomaly “did not die, despite the reported prognosis.”

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned expectant mothers in 2022 to avoid certain prenatal chromosomal screenings, due to the potential for false results. Two years earlier, The Federalist published an article that included findings from several studies revealing a shocking number of inaccurate chromosomal screenings.

Among some of the findings referenced in the article were that 54.5% percent of women received false positives for Down syndrome and 60% for Edward syndrome (Trisomy 18).

These cases are all the more sobering when considering the following FRC study findings:

The Federalist article references a case that made national headlines in 2019. A couple in Ireland aborted their child after receiving a positive test result for Edwards syndrome, only to discover afterward that the baby was healthy.

Beverly Jacobson, whose daughter was prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 18, said that phrases like “incompatible with life” used to describe fatal fetal anomalies are often misleading.

“My daughter Verity is nearly seven years old and there are hundreds – maybe even thousands – of babies, children, teens and adults in the United States like her who are living with Trisomy 18,” she said. “These sons and daughters are in no way ‘incompatible with life’ as the medical community often labels them, and families and communities are stronger and better because of these children.”

“The lives of people with disabilities, no matter how long or how short, are just as valuable as every other person’s,” Szoch said. “Americans must recognize this. Supporting perinatal hospice programs is a great place to start.”

 

 

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