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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

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