Diogo Ximenes

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Mom of disabled unborn child calls out Chile’s president for targeting her baby in new abortion bill

Diogo Ximenes
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Bernardita Vial de Bärthold speaks on CNN Chile.

SANTIAGO, Chile, February 18, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A recent interview by a young pregnant mother is causing waves in the public debate that has erupted in Chile with the introduction of the law to legalize abortion.  Her candid and heartfelt critique of the government’s pro-abortion initiative came as a surprise to the socialist government’s plan to steamroll the opposition through legislative majorities and the politics of polarization.  

Bernardita Vial de Bärthold is currently pregnant with a child diagnosed with the very type of disability that is being used to justify legalizing abortion in this South American country.

Last Sunday, she asked Chilean elected officials that, before supporting laws that favor abortion in the country, they listen and take into account the views of women who are or have been expecting babies with disabilities.

Bernardita is neither a politician nor an activist.  She is a young pregnant mother of a baby at 25 weeks gestation who has been diagnosed with anencephaly, an anomaly that inhibits proper brain and skull development.  According to a doctor familiar with her case, the baby’s life expectancy is only a few minutes after birth, but the child is very much alive and already has a name.  “My baby is called José,” states Ms. Vial.

In an interview published February 8 in CNN Chile, Bernardita urged the people “who are making the law [to legalize abortion] not to ignore us, to listen to us, who are going through this.”

She confesses that she felt “helpless” after finding that the Chilean government wanted to approve legislation that will put women with difficult pregnancies like hers in a vulnerable situation, and one that will undoubtedly coerce them to abort in circumstances where women are under very intense emotional pressure.  These are moments when "we are not capable of exercising our full and sound judgment to make such a strong decision, not regarding our life but the life of another," she said.

On January 31, President Bachelet sent to the Chilean Congress a bill that proposes the legalization of abortion in the country. Presently, Chile is a country where abortion is illegal under any circumstance.

If approved, the bill will allow the murder of unborn babies in three situations: when there is risk – present or future – to the health of the mother, when the pregnancy is a result of a rape and when the baby is diagnosed with a congenital disease or has a genetic “incompatible with the life out of the womb.”

José’s case fits the third condition, and if the bill were already approved, Bernardita’s gynecologist would be obliged to propose the abortion.

“I’m afraid, but I’m going to do everything for him.”

In the CNN interview, Bernardita faced, with spontaneity and simplicity, the questions of the interviewer.  There aren’t any traces of ideological prejudices or theoretical arguments in her answers.  Bernardita speaks only from the perspective of a mother, one with an experience marked by the pain of her son’s condition, but also by the peace of having done the right thing.  

“Are you afraid of living the moment when your son will be born and will die almost immediately?” asked the journalist.

“Yes, I’m afraid. It’s deeply painful. A woman is never prepared for the death of her son,” she answered.

Bernardita explains that in the beginning she was shocked, she didn’t understand the meaning of the suffering she was undergoing. That “painful expectation” seemed unbearable, but little by little, as the pregnancy progressed and the child grew week by week, “I was able to mature through this suffering.”  Now – she says – she faces the situation from the perspective of life and not of death. As a mother, she accepts and welcomes her son.

Her eyes become bright when she speaks of her baby: “I saw a tridimensional ultrasound of José and I saw his little face, his feet, and it was similar to the ultrasound of the other children I have, and I said: how alive he is! How I wish to preserve him like that, so that he won’t die! Therefore, when you think of ‘him’ not of ‘it’, and the feeling of being a mother grows. I’m going to do everything for him.”

When asked by the interviewer if she thought it fair that another woman might have the “right to make a different decision,” that is, to choose to abort the child, the young mother answered that she’d like to think that those who choose abortion do this because they don’t comprehend that what they are carrying in the womb is their own child.

“I doubt that a mother puts herself above her child, I doubt that she prefers her ‘mental health’ instead of allowing her son to fulfill the natural course of life, which in this case is to be born and die,” she says. “I wish to tell these women: be patient, this will pass, there isn’t a turbulence that doesn’t end with tranquility.”

Bernardita recounts that when she received the diagnosis of her son, the suffering was so intense that she felt the necessity of writing a diary in which she could register her feelings, emotions and experiences. She says that now when reading what she has written in the past, she doesn’t recognize herself.

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“That is why I feel helpless,” she says, “when I see that they will approve a bill that make us vulnerable” and opens the way to abortion in a moment when “we aren’t fully capable of taking a correct decision, I read my diary and I don’t recognize myself in what I used to write.  I’m convinced that we are limited in the use of our faculties by the intense emotions and we aren’t capable of making such strong a decision regarding not our life, but the life of another person.”

Bernardita states, “It brings much more satisfaction to know that you did what was possible to save his life and that you weren’t responsible for terminating his life. I know that when José is born I’ll feel bad, I’ll feel deeply attached to him, but he’ll be born and will die, and I know I’ll suffer.  However, I’ll feel satisfied knowing that I did everything for him.”

“For this reason, I feel encouraged to tell these mothers: you choose by yourself, be truly free, be brave, struggle to continue, you will meet him soon, you’ll have him as your son and you won’t let him go, you won’t desire to kill him, you’ll want to have him in your arms.” Vial says, “My suffering of death became a suffering of life” and this brought peace.

An ideological project behind the law

Behind the abortion bill, which, according to Bernardita, leaves many women with difficult pregnancies in a ‘vulnerable’ situation, paradoxically is another woman, a pediatrician with a vast ideological project of social engineering: Michele Bachelet, a well-known radical feminist and an extreme defender of gender ideology.

Chile's constitution prevents a president from serving two consecutive terms, so Bachelet left office in 2010 and was appointed the first head of UN Women, the entity of the United Nations Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, which promotes - among other things - abortion as 'women’s rights'.     

A few weeks ago, when introducing her bill, she said, "This is a difficult situation. We love life and no one wants to interrupt it, least of all a mother, but when her life is at risk, or the life that is developing is not viable or is a result of sexual violence [...] we must make a decision and we cannot force women to bear alone the heavy consequences.”

For Bachelet, helping them not to “bear alone the heavy consequences” means opening the doors to abortion.  Although the government argues that it’s "limited to three specific cases," the first case, in practice, establishes abortion on demand, as the 'risk' to the mother is established by criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO), which understands health in general as "well-being."

From this perspective, if a pregnancy alters or damages the physical, psychological or social well-being, "present or future" of the mother, the woman would be entitled to terminate the life of her child.  The same rationale and strategy was used in Spain to legalize abortion. There, 97 percent of the "legal" abortions are performed today under this vague “health” ground.  

In the interview with CNN Chile, Bernardita said the debate on the subject is being conducted in an abstract and misleading ideological way, "based on theories and opinions of people who have not gone through this." The government appears to be marginalizing and discrediting those who hold a contrary position to the legalization bill.

Bernardita has asked to be heard by a government for which, according to a recent editorial in the newspaper El Mercurio, "the joint reflection of the whole society in a matter of vital importance, such as the right to life of the unborn, is of low priority.”

Three days after her television interview, in a letter published by El Mercurio, Mrs. Vial asked Bachelet to stop and reflect. This is what she wrote to the president:

"I invite Mrs. Bachelet to raise awareness that if she legalizes abortion we would be driving thousands of mothers to take a decision of life or death in a minute when our heads are 'in another planet.’ And when we return, we will have aborted already... and there will be no going back. "

And talking to other mothers in the same situation, she continues, "We will pass the barrier of anxiety. We must persevere and not make hurried decisions. Then peace will come and we’ll feel heroic!"

Correction Feb. 18/2015: This article originally stated incorrectly that Bachelet lost re-election in 2010. In fact, she was prevented from running in 2010 because Chile's Constitution bars a president from serving two consecutive terms.

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