Niamh Ui Bhriain

Since when is murder a solution to illness?: babies with a fatal diagnosis have a right to life

Niamh Ui Bhriain
By Niamh Ui Bhriain
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“She was the most amazing little person I could ever put my eyes on. I kissed her and cried .... but most of all I just loved her and held her. I had the 3 greatest days of my life with this little girl and I could not imagine life without knowing her.”
                  - Dawn, whose baby girl Amanda, was born with anencephaly and lived for three days.

These days, ultrasound scans give an unprecedented window to the womb. It’s pretty amazing for parents to see their baby moving and growing as she or he comes to birth.

But this technology also allows us to see when something is wrong with baby, and, on rare occasions, disorders such as anencephaly or Trisomy 18 show up on the ultrasound. This can mean that baby won’t live for long after birth - though there are some truly astonishing and wonderful exceptions - or that he or she might not make it to birth at all.

Naturally, these are hugely traumatic and distressing situations, and everyone would feel enormous sympathy for parents faced with a fatal diagnosis for their baby. In the past month, the Irish media has been saturated with the testimonies of Irish women who, having received such diagnoses, went to Britain to have their babies aborted. They are now calling for a change in Irish law, and want the practises available in Britain to be made legal here. Those practises include what is known as feticide, where the baby, alive and kicking in the womb, receives a lethal injection into the heart.

Whether by feticide then, or by some other method, the lives of babies with fatal disabilities would be ended, not by allowing nature to take her course, but by the intervention of an abortionist or other medical practitioner. Can this really be the best answer for parents and for baby in these very upsetting circumstances?

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It’s important to look at the reality of what’s currently happening in Ireland and at the outcomes for children diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.

These fatal diagnoses are rare, but they happen, and one of the things that has not been acknowledged is that most Irish mothers in these situations carry their babies to term. The Irish Times reported that up to 90% of mothers do not elect to abort their children in these circumstances. You could be forgiven for thinking that the opposite was the case because of recent media reporting, but what’s crystal clear is that all parents in this situation deserve much more than our sympathy - they need us to put professional support systems in place.

That’s why the Life Institute has written to the Minister for Health urging him to establish perinatal hospice services as expeditiously as possible. Many parents facing a fatal diagnosis believe that their children would suffer unbearably following birth - and are not made aware that perinatal hospice care would work to eliminate that suffering.

The good news is that, according to leading experts in the field, centres offering this essential care are not difficult to establish or maintain. In a recent article in the Washington Times, Dr Byron Calhoun of West Virginia University, explained that “all the typical hospital needs is a few extra rooms for these families.” Dr Calhoun explained that the perinatal hospice movement supports parents of children expected to die soon after birth. It offers nurses, chaplains, neonatologists, social workers, bereavement counselors and even a photographer to capture brief moments. “Time with the baby is extremely important to these moms,” he said. “Families want a live birth, a baptism, a chance to hold the baby; to give as much love a child can have in their brief life.”

As Dr Calhoun pointed out, “the only alternative parents are given is termination of pregnancy or they’re told they are on their own.” This should not be acceptable for a society which cares for its most vulnerable citizens.

Where abortion has become readily available, up to 95% of babies diagnosed with anencephaly are aborted, according to the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. And, tragically, this rate then becomes the norm for babies diagnosed with other conditions, such as Downs Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis. The facts seem to support the contention that, once we remove the right to life from children with severe disabilities, the definition of being ‘incompatible with life’ stretches further and further.

That’s because we cannot get away from the core ethical principle which must underpin all these discussions: unborn children - whatever their disability, and however short their life may be - have a right to life.

It’s to be regretted then, that recent reporting has sometimes been badly misinformed. For example, the ability of these special children to spend precious time with their parents has been - deliberately or otherwise - vastly understated. It’s been repeated again and again that children with fatal diagnoses are ‘incompatible with life’ - a statement that has correctly been described as a judgment rather than a diagnosis. The impression is given that they will never live, even briefly, after birth, but that’s certainly not always the case. Children with Trisomy 18 or Edwards syndrome for example often live between 5 and 15 days after they are born, and 8% live longer than a year, according to the Trisomy 18 Foundation.

Anencephalic babies similarly often live beyond birth, however briefly. Their parents, broken-hearted and devastated though they may be, have spoken most movingly and courageously of the great joy and tremendous love they experienced in having the opportunity to share that time with their children.

The voices of those parents have been completely shut out of the discussion in the past month in Ireland. I spoke to one mother of a baby with anencephaly who treasured the time she spent feeling her baby moving and kicking before birth, and who then had several hours to say goodbye to her child. She told me that the way the current debate was being played out made her feel as if her little girl’s life was judged as being worthless; a judgment she passionately rejected.

Another mother pointed out that if demands to change the current law succeeded, the right to life of all babies with fatal diagnoses would be taken away. Her baby boy would have had no inherent right to life: whether he lived or died wouldn’t have been about the tragedy of his disorder any longer - it would have been solely down to the decision made by his parents.

She also said she was very concerned for parents who feel that abortion is an answer, and warned that, in time, abortion may be seen as the only option by a health service reluctant to spend resources on babies who they feel are ‘better off dead’. Research in this area is pretty thin, but one 2005 Dutch study suggested that women who aborted for reasons of foetal abnormality showed severe post-traumatic stress up to seven years later.

It comes down to this: whatever the crisis, we can find a better answer than abortion. It was disturbing to see abortion campaigners like the Irish Family Planning Association [a Planned Parenthood affiliate]  attempt to use these sad situations to further their own agenda - which is to see abortion on demand legalised in Ireland. Their only answer to the trauma facing parents is to offer the medieval solution of abortion. We reject that solution - and are resolved instead to work towards a answer that loves and protects both mother and baby.

  • To see testimonies from parents who’ve carried their children to term see www.benotafraid.net
  • Also read the amazing story of Baby Faith Hope who lived with anencephaly for 93 days on this beautiful blog written by her mother Myah.
  • The Dutch study can be read here: Korenromp, Christiaens, van den Bout, et al, ‘Longterm psychological consequences of pregnancy termination for fetal abnormality: a cross-sectional study,’ Prenatal Diagnosis, 2005 March 25(3), 253-60,

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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