Monday, September 20, 2004

A story my mother told me today made me cry. It is about a friend of hers who had an abortion at eight and a half months into her pregnancy.

Before lunch I was having a conversation with my mother about orthodontics and I told her my orthodontist also works with children with clef palets. Somehow the topic shifted to abortions. I talked about what I knew, which was that after a certain period into a pregnancy abortion can be very dangerous. I thought about articles I've read on stem cell research and embryos that cry. I said that after three or four months, it's probably not a good idea to have an abortion. My mother then told me the story of her friend who had an abortion at eight and a half months.

It happened in China when I was very young. China, the country with the one-child policy. Scans in the last month of my mother's friend's pregnancy showed a problem. I don't know the details. The umbilical cord might have been wrapped around the fetus's neck. Complications at birth could result in a defect. Everything could also turn out fine. But due to that risk, the doctor suggested she get rid of it. Since she was only allowed one child, the doctor said, she might as well have a completely healthy one. Get rid of this one and try again.

My mother's friend was only a few weeks away from her due date. Premature babies born at six months survive and grow up normal and healthy. She was in her eighth.

I can only guess that she was scared and didn't know what to do. Naturally, she believed doctors always gave the best advice, and she agreed to the abortion. I don't think she was told how painful, how horrifying, how completely heartbreaking the process would be.

During the procedure, an injection was given to put the fetus to sleep. When they took the fetus out (pardon my terms), it was still kicking and struggling to stay alive. I can't even imagine how unbearable that would have been to watch. Why was she allowed to watch? My mother's friend almost lost her life during the abortion too. She told my mother this story when she got back from the hospital. Everybody expected her to come home with a baby, and my mother was planning to make her chicken soup. She was so deeply traumatized and scarred that her husband didn't want her to get pregnant again.

I don't know what I would do if that happened to me, if I was scared enough by the doctor's words to agree to a late abortion, after a relationship had developed, after everything had been prepared - in the emotional, physical and every other sense - and the only thing left was to bring this life into the world. I don't think I'd want to live. I couldn't stop crying after I heard this story. When I finally stopped, I remembered the two hundred children that died under hostage in Russia and started to cry again.

My mother lost contact with her friend. They thought about adoption. I wonder if she remembers the pain everytime she sees a pregnant woman, if she remembers her own baby when she see's someone else's child. I hope she has healed.

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