Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tragic, Really

[trigger warning: abortion, stillbirth]

abortion, religion, christianity, baby gianna
The Baby Gianna story (Part I, Part II) leaves me sad and angry and . . . puzzled most of all.

A young, single mother of 3 children, Rebecca, calls a pregnancy center to get an abortion. For those not in the know, "pregnancy centers" advertise like they might be Planned Parenthood, but their sole purpose is to push women away from abortions. She talks to Jessica, who spends weeks trying to convince Rebecca to keep her baby. The situation is not good. Rebecca is poor, already has 3 children, and also has an abusive boyfriend. Jessica just can't leave well enough alone.

Come to find out that Rebecca's baby has a kidney disease and will either be stillborn or will die shortly after birth. That is the crux of my puzzlement: Baby Gianna is already dead. Whether Rebecca has an inducement to end the pregnancy or not, the baby is dead. The only question is now or later.

That doesn't stop Jessica from fighting for a few more weeks in Rebecca's uterus.

“'Utter frustration', 'Disappointing', 'Infuriating'” are still some of the
only words Jessica can use to describe her feelings regarding the doctor's
suggestion in a Catholic hospital.

After months of working with the baby's mother to help her choose life, the
doctor at the Catholic hospital "kicked back all the work we’d done.""

We were backtracked to where we’d been in June. I was devastated,” she
said. “It just seemed that there was no safe harbor for this child. This poor
little sheep had no shepherd.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, Jessica, but dead baby. That baby was doomed either way. The only question was when. I certainly wouldn't begrudge Rebecca continuing her pregnancy as long as she wished to, but why fight so hard to make sure Gianna died 4 months later instead of on that day?

The tragedy to me, really, is that Jessica spends her entire time ignoring the advice of not one, but four, doctors. She seems to assume that each and every doctor just hates little babies and that's why they recommended an abortion. The idea that the doctors may have had actual medical reasons for their recommendation is never mentioned.

What's even more tragic is this:

And shortly after, Rebecca even asked doctors for a “super-hydration”
injection she’d read about in Fr. Z’s article to help the baby’s lungs. This
woman who’d been too afraid to open her mouth in doctor’s offices weeks before
was now demanding that everything be done to save her baby. Medical staff were
surprised and wondered aloud how she even knew about the injection. They
attempted to dissuade her but she insisted.

Rebecca was fighting for her baby.

Jessica convinced this woman that her baby could be saved. You don't ask for experimental procedures* because you think they won't work. That's just cruel. Super hydration, btw, is something I can only find mentioned on a Catholic priest's blog that seems to be an attempt to treat amniotic fluid loss. The only problem is, while Rebecca did have amniotic fluid loss, it was kidney disease that killed her baby. Amniotic fluid loss was secondary. Rebecca was fighting for her baby, and clearly didn't understand what was killing her. It's just so cruel.

I know a cat isn't the same thing as a baby, but this recalls to me when my mother's cat developed kidney failure. The first veterinarian had my mom doing all this stuff for the cat and buying all sorts of medicines and paying for all sorts of treatment. Finally, I convinced my mom to take the cat to my vet, who looked my mom in the eyes and said, "Your cat is dying. Let him go."

I seems cold to say it so baldly, but if my mom had seen my vet first, she wouldn't have spent three weeks moving heaven and earth to save a cat that had no chance at all. My mother tormented the cat and herself for no reason at all, with the very best of intentions.

I suppose you could respond that Jessica had the best of intentions here, but she did not. Her intentions were not to help Rebecca or Baby Gianna, her intentions were to make sure no abortions happen ever, even medically necessary ones. And if that meant tormenting a young mother with false hope, so what? At least there wasn't an abortion.

And they say moral relativism is evil.

* I called this procedure "experimental" because I couldn't find any information on it, and the doctor in the story seemed surprised to hear about it. If this is a standard procedure, the point still stands. You don't ask for intervention unless you think it might have an effect.


  1. You said you can't find any info on this, but if you're interested, it sounds like Potter Sequence/BRA (although I didn't go to your links for more info).
    I have to admit this story surprised me because I know that Catholic hospitals, as approved from the Vatican under Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care, are approved and do perform early induction in cases like this. I'm not Catholic, but I thought this was common understanding.
    Also, if I were you, I'd hesitate before accepting this story as the norm and judging Catholics in general over it. I know you like to put all Christians in a box and tell your readers what they believe based on individual remarks, but that's probably an unwise practice, especially in this case.

  2. For whatever it's worth, I think that most of us here are quite capable of distinguishing between specific cases and entire organizations... and also that muddy area where specific cases are the results of wider beliefs and policies, even if the folks propagating those beliefs and policies would be horrified by this individual result.

    For that matter, I draw a strong distinction between individual Catholics, Catholic churchgoers in general, and the... what do I call it? ...Church Hierarchy.

  3. I disagree slightly, PF: I think Jessica's intentions were good. Whether that good was for the baby or the baby's mother or for religious morality is another question entirely.

    In any case, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Many people justify injustice in the name of some higher cause; what they're actually doing, however, is following some road map towards "good" without bothering to see where the journey is taking them.

  4. Cura te ipsum--I did not see this post as judging Catholics. I got the impression that the doctors at the Catholic hospital were, in fact, suggesting early induction. That's what Jessica (from the pregnancy center of unspecified affiliation) described as infuriating and disappointing. So it turns out that this particular case is more nuanced than "put Christians in a box" and I found that the post presented it as such. Your concern is laudable but, perhaps, misplaced.


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at