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(LifeSiteNews) — I’ve been involved with pro-life activism since I was a kid, but only this year, as Roe hangs in the balance, has abortion become a profoundly personal issue for me.

I was barely old enough to ride a bike when my parents joined Florida Right to Life, volunteering to organize the Jackson County branch. They had no prior experience with issue advocacy or political organization, so they looked for anything they could find to promote a hopeful message to young women facing what we then called “crisis pregnancies.”

My first distinct memory of our involvement was walking down the side of a littered highway in Marianna, Florida, picking up garbage in hundred-degree heat so that we could get “Jackson County Right to Life” printed on our nearest adopt-a-highway sign.

My folks explained everything to us in the most age-appropriate way they could, stressing that every human being was made in the image of God, and that even babies who are sick, dying, or unwanted by their parents are still worthy of dignity, love, and care – and definitely worth a few sweaty, smelly hours picking up trash in the Florida heat.

Our family was still engaged in pro-life activism two decades later when I found my voice in conservative media, writing pro-life and pro-liberty articles across mainstream news outlets and major conservative publications.

I also met – and quickly married – a woman who was equally passionate about defending the unborn, and an even more talented writer.

Together we organized pro-life events, grilled presidential candidates on abortion at the Iowa Caucuses, penned articles, published podcasts, and gave money, time, sweat, and tears to make abortion not only illegal, but unthinkable.

Most of our writing focused on demonstrating the personhood of the unborn, calling out the legal double-standard that abortion creates, and rebutting logical fallacies and outdated science used by abortion proponents. Though we are a Christian family, we rarely bring faith into the abortion discussion because our moral and logical syllogisms against abortion don’t require any religious belief at all.

READ: Dear Planned Parenthood: My miscarriage was nothing like an abortion

Like many pro-life activists, we got used to hearing about so-called exceptions: rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and life of the mother. We were informed that our privilege allowed us to advocate for life, while others in more difficult circumstances needed the “choice” of legal abortion. They insisted that we were not allowed to have an opinion on the morality or legality of any abortion, so long as someone, somewhere, was facing a specific hardship to which we could not personally relate.

Over this time we were also blessed with three little boys. As soon as we found out about each of them, we tracked their growth and watched their development by ultrasound, awed by the miracle of new life. We read to them, sang to them, and prayed for them.

Last fall, at a family get-together, our boys were playing outside with their cousins when my mom came outside and took a seat next to me on the porch swing. Watching them play, her eyes started welling up. She turned to me and said that she was so glad that I was born, and that my family existed. It was a sweet sentiment, but her tone told me that there was more to the statement than was actually said.

My mind didn’t leave that porch swing for months. At the end of the year, I finally emailed her to ask what she meant, and whether there was more behind the words.

There was.

I knew my parents had come from a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity before beginning their walk with Christ about the time I was born, but I never realized how close that lifestyle was to erasing my existence.

My mom was the mom in all the typical abortion debates. She had been married early and had one child, then that marriage blew up and she fell into alcohol and drug abuse; a young, impoverished, single mom drifting between boyfriends and struggling to make sense of her life.

Along the way she became pregnant with other children who would have been my siblings, but I never got to meet them.

She was poor. She was afraid. She was alone. She wasn’t sure she could care for them.

Society had convinced her that abortion was the answer, so she made appointments, and terminated the pregnancies.

And then she got pregnant with me.

Still poor. Still afraid. Still alone. Still unsure of if, or how, she could care for two children – but she told me something had changed.

“When I found out I was pregnant with you,” she wrote, “I was working as a bartender at the airport. I had had a long time to think about my former actions. Abortion was, naturally, on the table, but I was so ashamed of my abortions. Probably immediately after the last abortion, or maybe when I saw the billboard with the tiny feet held between the giant adult fingers, (fetus at 10 weeks!) I realized that it was a baby (not a cluster of cells) and the child was innocent. I decided I might never have a happy marriage and a good husband, but I determined I was not ever going to have another abortion.”

She was still the poster child for an abortive situation, but Mom saved me, kept me, and raised me. She couldn’t see past her circumstances, but she still chose not to take my life.

And, as they typically do, circumstances changed. A few months after I was born, she married my dad. They moved out of Orlando to a run-down old farmhouse and our family learned to clear land, grow food, raise animals, cook, homeschool, and more. They were still poor, and now they were in a strange place where they knew no one – a couple of city-slickers learning to run the farmstead that time forgot.

But we were a family, and we learned, grew, struggled, and rejoiced together.

And it almost didn’t happen. My entire life, my memories, my accomplishments, my family, my children, were one pro-life billboard away from being snapped out of existence.

I wasn’t just another child in just another circumstance. I was the exception. I was the hardship, the limitation, the obstacle – and one many mothers would have opted to abort.

Suddenly, abortion was no longer theoretical to me – it was an enemy that had threatened my life before I was born, without regard to my future, desires, hopes, or dreams.

All of this was still on my mind a couple weeks later when my wife excitedly told me that she was pregnant again.

We opted for the early DNA test and found out that little boy #4 was on the way, which on one hand meant we could keep recycling baby clothes, but on the other, meant we would have to dig deeper into our shrinking stack of boy names.

We eventually landed on Zion Alexander, who would follow our other boys in having a biblical first name, and a middle name from one of America’s prominent founders.

We joyfully dusted off the baby clothes and the recently-demoted infant car seat, taking inventory of what we still had and what we might need to replace. We joked about more sleepless nights and frantic diaper changes. We tracked every week of his growth and development, and shared a joyful announcement to family and friends.

At 20 weeks, we went in for an ultrasound, and were told that there were some potential problems that we might have to monitor going forward. Having seen some early concerns evaporate with our other boys, we didn’t worry too much, just committed Zion to prayer for normal, healthy growth.

But normal was not in God’s plans for us this time.

One week later, my wife was at a strawberry patch with the boys when she got a call from our perinatal provider that she needed to come in quickly – they didn’t say why. She called me at work and after dropping the kids off with a friend, we went together.

When we arrived they brought us back for another ultrasound, and spent nearly an hour measuring and taking snapshots of our baby’s heart, brain, and more. As usual, we talked to each other and the technician about baby Zion, joking about his squirms and kicks, and melting at the sight of his cute little face and profile.

Then, somewhat abruptly, the visibly uneasy tech left and told us a doctor would be with us shortly. We knew something wasn’t right, and spent the next few minutes in prayer as we waited for the doctor to arrive.

But knowing something was wrong didn’t soften the impact of what that something was.

The scan had found that our beautiful baby boy had a number of serious complications with his heart and brain. Combined with other telltale signs visible in the ultrasound, the evidence pointed to a heartbreaking diagnosis: Trisomy-18.

Ultrasound image of baby Zion Alexander

My wife and I sat stunned as the doctor explained the fatal condition to us, and told us that, in all likelihood, our son would either be stillborn or not live long after delivery. In that moment, everything changed. Months of anticipation and imagination, dreaming of our future with this little one, suddenly turned into questions we had hoped to never ask, and the unthinkable pain of having to say goodbye to a child who had already carved out so big a space in our hearts.

Then, as we silently mourned, the doctor’s masked mouth began moving again, letting us in on the reason we had been summoned so quickly.

“Please don’t be offended, but I have to let you know that it’s an option to terminate your pregnancy.”

My mind reeled. We just spent the last hour with the technician – and the last five minutes with the doctor – talking about our little boy.

He won’t roll over for me.”

“Do you have a name for him?”

“There’s his nose.”

He. Him. His.

Now, minutes later in the selfsame conversation, our son was unpersoned. He was a “pregnancy” to be terminated, a complication to be avoided, and a “threat” to my wife’s health and mental wellbeing.

That immediate, dramatic shift didn’t happen in reality – our son was still the same as he had been when we walked into the office. He was still just as human and just as alive as he had been every day since conception– the inarguable biological starting point of human life.

But a change certainly did happen in the minds of the medical staff. To them, he was already dead, and our choice not to abort him was just an unnecessary headache and expense for everyone involved.

READ: Canadian Archbishop: ‘Early Induction’ on babies with lethal fetal anomaly is ‘direct abortion’

I know this because after we emphatically, repeatedly declined abortion and said we wanted to keep him, they continued to offer it in calls and subsequent appointments – even in apparent violation of state law, which bans abortions after 20 weeks.

They also never sent our chart or the promised appointment request to pediatric cardiology because “they just don’t do that for Trisomy babies.” We weren’t offered options. We weren’t offered care or counseling. We weren’t offered hope.

Shocked and horrified at the sudden switch in demeanor from our medical team, we reached out to our trusted midwife, who had delivered our last baby, and was supporting us through this pregnancy as well. She – and many other moms and medical folks since – informed us that this treatment was common, and was bound to get worse as things progressed.

We heard stories of parents having to fight for critical tests, NICU procedures, and even basic comfort care for little ones who weren’t expected to live long. We were told that many Trisomy babies die of malnutrition because they cannot yet nurse and hospital staff don’t want to bother with a feeding tube.

Expectations shape reality, and this causes a real problem in an environment where expectations can dictate life-and-death treatment decisions.

As soon as our son was diagnosed with Trisomy, he ceased being a baby boy and became a statistic to them. It felt like they calculated the likelihood of his death either in utero or shortly after birth, and decided that his life was now less important than the relative inconvenience of keeping him alive.

Andrew Breitbart wasn’t wrong when he said politics was downstream from culture. But it’s also upstream, and around, and within. Politics is one spoke in the ever-turning wheel of human civilization, along with culture, faith, family, business, education, and entertainment. Each spoke influences, and is influenced by, those around it.

My mother faced an abortion culture being hoisted up on the shoulders of the sexual revolution. That culture rolled through America’s other institutions, leaving deep ruts in the medical field.

For doctors and nurses trained since Roe, abortion is just another chapter in the study guide. It’s an option to be exercised at the patient’s request, and frequently less expensive and complicated than the alternative. This is why Twitter is full of people mindlessly repeating “abortion is healthcare.” It’s what they have been deliberately taught by an entire generation of medical professionals and educators.

And the posture of the industry toward our little boy shows it.

Trisomy babies, from the view of many medical professionals, are a waste of time, effort, and resources. There is pressure to abort these precious children as soon as the diagnosis comes in. Across cases of Trisomy (not just Trisomy 18), abortion is committed in over 95% of cases – usually before there’s even a chance to see whether they’re compatible with life or not. There’s really no way to avoid calling this what it is. It’s eugenics, happening right here and right now, in America. Our medical industry has judged these children defective, and their parents have judged them not worth the trouble of keeping alive.

I could tell you that these diagnoses are often wrong, or that they shouldn’t give up on our baby because there’s a chance he could survive. I could tell you stories of families who stared at similar ultrasound reports and then ended up delivering perfectly healthy babies.

But that would undercut the universal moral principle at stake here: our son deserves the best care we can give, even if he is going to die.

READ: Irish mom aborts ‘wanted’ baby with ‘fatal abnormality,’ discovers afterward baby was perfectly healthy

We aren’t oblivious to medical facts. We know that even if our little Zion doesn’t have Trisomy-18, he has serious complications that may not allow him to live independently, and if he does in fact have Trisomy, there may be more problems that we cannot yet see.  We know his prognosis is grim. We know that he might be stillborn, or die shortly after birth – with or without surgical interventions.

But my son is no exception in that sense.

We are all dying.

Every human being is chained to the iron hasp of mortality – some chains just have more links than others. This realization should change the way we view ourselves and each other. The difference between the NICU baby and the elderly war veteran in hospice is neither humanity nor personhood, value nor worth.

It’s time.

One had years of independence, the other may only get minutes.

But in those precious minutes, there is care to be provided, love to be given, grief to be borne, comfort and hope to be grasped.

We don’t know how long our son will live on this earth, but it doesn’t matter. He is very much alive, and very much a person – right here, right now. We sing to him and talk to him, and he responds by kicking and squirming. We want him to hear music, to feel laughter, and to know love every single moment he’s with us.

None of these commitments are products of circumstance, but rather, products of relationship and responsibility. We love and care for our children – that’s what it means to be a parent.

Abortion advocates keep reminding us that there’s a huge variety of difficult circumstances that can apply to pregnancy, and there certainly are. Some babies are conceived in rape, some in incest. Some are born into poverty and hardship. Some, like our little Zion, have genetic defects and malformed organs and are unlikely to live very long. Many more will be born into poverty, substance abuse, and broken homes, where they will likely experience pain and sadness, for at least a while.

But while these circumstances are typically part of the argument for abortion, I think they actually undergird one of the most persuasive cases against it.

Life confounds our attempts to predict or limit the reach of human potential, regardless of origin, and history is replete with men and women who overcame terrible disadvantages to become heroes and icons.

But whether or not such exploits are likely for any given child, such hope actually forms the weaker argument for life.

The stronger argument lies in the simple, morally-intuitive truth that when someone is facing hardship, pain, or death, it is incumbent upon decent people to shelter, provide, heal, and love – while we can.

Shouldn’t those most exposed to the hardship, pain, and evil of the world, also get the chance to see good?

READ: ‘Push through the fear’: Catholic mom finds solace after miscarriages

If our baby will only experience a few hours of life outside the womb, where he will feel pain and fear before slipping into eternity, doesn’t he deserve every bit of peace and protection we can muster now? Should he not be completely – and legally – protected from another person seeking to end his life prematurely for their own convenience?

Shouldn’t children conceived in rape or incest discover that not all of life is violence and trauma, and that there can be healing after harm?

Shouldn’t babies born in poverty have the chance to find out that poverty doesn’t equal misery? To learn that even if their circumstances never change, they are just as likely to experience and cherish things like family, creativity, community, and faith – gemstones of human happiness most often mined far under the fertile subsoil of wealth and ease?

Shouldn’t we welcome the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, and the dying into our world, in order that they might also know peace, love, and hope?

My mom didn’t know what my future would be. In her circumstances, it was hard to imagine that anything but hardship and heartache would come from my birth. But she realized that once I was conceived, she and I were in this together, no matter what. Her hardships would be mine too, and my pain would be hers – and it still is. My mom and dad still cry when I suffer, and still smile when I laugh. Life has glued us together.

I don’t know what little Zion’s future will be. I don’t know if he will beat the odds and survive his condition beyond birth. I don’t know if he’ll ever walk or talk. I don’t know if he’ll ever know that it was my voice that sang to him in the womb. But we are bound forever as father and son, and I owe him the same love and care I give our other boys.

My wife and I are not choosing whether to be Zion’s parents. We are already his parents, and the only choice left to us now is what kind of parents we will be.

Because at the end of the day, there are no exceptions.

In order for exceptions to exist, there must first be a rule.

No snowflake is exceptional, because every snowflake is unique. There is no “normal” against which to determine exceptionality. In the same way, no human being is an exception, because humanity is not standardized. Our talents, our lifespans, our personalities, perceptions, and experiences are unique in history.

Individual human beings are not exceptional. Humanity is exceptional, and we are exceptional in that we are human.

And that’s why the rule must be life.