Weeping softly: why we should never abandon women

By Ruth Limkin

The tragedy is almost too much. Perhaps it actually is.

The heartbreaking news from a Melbourne hospital detailed an abortion that took the life of a healthy twin at 32 weeks gestation. It had been meant to take the life of the twin whom doctors had diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.

The article read:

A friend of the woman said the family was struggling to cope with the fatal mistake.

“She went to the hospital with two babies and now she has none. And she had the heartache of giving birth to her sick baby. She’s traumatised,” the friend said.

“The hospital said it had followed correct procedure but how could this happen? The ultrasound clinician said she checked three times before the termination because she didn’t want to make a mistake.”

The woman’s husband, a nurse, a doctor and the ultrasound clinician, who was reportedly inconsolable as a result of the error, were in the room at the time of the procedure.”

Even when reading the news about this devastating situation, the pain is almost palpable.

I grieve for the parents of these two children, who now have an almost unbearable loss.

I grieve for the ultrasound clinician who has experienced something so horrible that they may find it hard to confidently fulfil their duties for some time.

I grieve also for our culture. Sadly, we consider this a tragedy only because a healthy child was killed.

What has become of us that we defend or applaud the killing of a child with heart problems, in the name of ‘freedom’. Surely, sick children also deserve our compassion and protection?

We have abandoned women to the very worst of situations by refusing to demand better alternatives for them than abortion. They deserve real choices, unconstrained by fear of financial strain, threats, or sense of isolation. We must support, love and care, and we must advocate for change.

We should weep at the death of a child, whether healthy or with heart problems. We should weep with the men and women who have lost their children – through whatever circumstances. And we should resolve again to remind our society, our government and ourselves that women deserve better than abortion.



4 thoughts on “Weeping softly: why we should never abandon women

  1. Ruth, what a horrendous story! I doubt the ultra sound technician will ever get over this mistake, let alone the parents. Its something that shouldn’t happen as abortion shouldn’t be part of the medical procedures on offer in our country.

    It is sad that the convenience of parental wishes are held up as more important than the rights of children to be given safe passage into life…


  2. Another great article Ruth – so grateful you have an opportunity to share what we are all feeling, my heart goes out to the parents and the ultra sound technician, I can’t even imagine the pain they are feeling.

  3. Unless you have parented a child with special needs, I don’t think you have the right to comment on a women’s choice to terminate. I would hate to live in a society where there is no choice. The financial, emotional and mental impact of raising a child with special needs is great and the parents would have taken this into consideration when making their decision.

  4. I agree with Jane that the emotional, financial and mental impact of raising a child with special needs is great. The greatest heros of our society in my books are the mums and dads who give so sacrificially and so lovingly, day in and day out, in their care for family members with special needs. They do this often with very little government support. They are without a doubt unsung heros, and I wish we acknowledged and supported them more.
    However, I differ with Jane because I don’t think the termination of babies with special needs is in the best interests of the baby, the mother, or our society. I’ve thought long and hard about this to come to this position.
    Once we begin to think that babies with special needs can be aborted, I find myself facing even more troublesome questions:
    Who determines which special needs are in, and which are out? Who says that a baby with say, Downs should die, but a baby with say, cerebral palsy or other “defect” should not?
    What message does this send to living members of our community who live with these disabilities every day – about their worth?
    What does it say about us as a society? That life to us is only valuable when it is “perfect”, or “meets certain conditions” or isn’t going to need a bit of extra support? I ask myself often what kind of society do we want to build? And I keep thinking about a society where all members are valued and cared for, and loved, in spite of their frailties, or imperfections, one where parents of children with special needs can be encouraged, and resourced, and where the message they receive is, “you are not alone, we’re in this together.”
    I’ve also thought long and hard about our Mums who terminate their pregnancies. I wonder about the pressure that comes on them, not to burden society with their “less than perfect” offspring. I think about the research that shows that women who have abortions have an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems afterwards, and the friends I have who fit this bill, who suffer from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, sleep disturbances… and so on.
    We often hear that these decisions are only between a woman and her doctor, and no one else. But what if, like in the case Ruth has written of, the doctor makes a terrible mistake? Or what if, another medical opinion might have yielded a different piece of advice concerning diagnosis or treatment? Or what if that mother had loving family or community who supported and assisted her? Or the father was willing to raise the baby alone if need be?
    Life with disability might not be an easy road and I don’t want to minimize the difficulties. But neither is life with cancer, or depression, or substance abuse, or many other problems that come our way because we are human beings.
    Keep writing Ruth.

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