A report from Nebraska about a woman named Danielle Deaver, who was forced to bear her premature pregnancy to term after her water broke at 22 weeks of gestation. After being informed that the fetus’s death was virtually guaranteed, they attempted to abort the pregnancy to save the fetus and themselves the trauma of the birth, but were unable to thanks to Nebraska’s Fetal Pain law:
Deaver, 34, and her husband planned the pregnancy and wanted a second child, she said.
Their dreams ended tragically when they learned, shortly before the premature birth, that the pregnancy could not go to term and that the fetus had virtually no chance to survive. She was in her 22nd week of pregnancy when her water broke…
…Doctors said there was less than a 10 percent chance the fetus would have a heartbeat and the capacity to breathe at birth. If it lived, there was perhaps a 2 percent chance that it ever would be able function on the most basic level.
After consulting with Doctors, Danielle and her husband decided that it would be more humane to terminate the pregnancy than allow the fetus to be born, only to die shortly thereafter. Attorneys, however, informed her that this wasn’t possible:
After consulting attorneys, doctors told Deaver and her husband that the Nebraska law prohibited an abortion in their case. She had to wait, give birth, and watch the infant die.
Nebraska’s new abortion law forced Danielle Deaver to live through ten excruciating days, waiting to give birth to a baby that she and her doctors knew would die minutes later, fighting for breath that would not come.
And that’s what happened. The one-pound, ten-ounce girl, Elizabeth, was born December 8th. Deaver and husband Robb watched, held and comforted the baby as it gasped for air, hoping she was not suffering. She died 15 minutes later.
So even if we grant the premise of the law, and we assume that a fetus can feel pain, it’s still lose-lose. Underneath both scenarios (termination v. non-termination), the fetus dies; the difference is that, in the latter case, the fetus experiences 10 days of being crushed to death, then, upon being birthed, suffocated for 15 minutes underneath the distressed visage of its mother and father. In the former case, the fetus avoids unnecessary suffering prior to death, and the parents are relieved of the trauma of watching the infant gasp futilely for air for 15 minutes before dying in the mother’s arms.
The sponsor of the controversial Nebraska statute, Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, told the Des Moines Register that the law worked as it was intended in the Deavers’ case.“Even in these situations where the baby has a terminal condition or there’s not much chance of surviving outside of the womb, my point has been and remains that [that] is still a life,” Flood said in an interview with the Iowa newspaper.
Excellent. I’m sure Mr. Flood wouldn’t mind then, if we applied this logic in other areas of his life. Surely Mr. Flood wouldn’t mind if we passed an analogous law, e.g., demanding that he be forced to keep his loved one(s) on life support should they suffer a debilitating injury of some kind that renders them vegetative or indefinitely comatose. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it when the government gets in the way of that enormously personal, traumatic, emotional, and painful experience of having to determine when a loved one’s chances at life are so tenuous and prospective, that decency and mercy move one’s conscience to discontinue medical treatment. I’m sure he will acquiesce in a blanket proscription that prevents him and his family from making the difficult choice to grant an irretrievably incapacitated, non-functional loved one some measure of dignity and grace in their final condition. And surely he would not take umbrage if we forced this choice on him regardless of the pain that it caused him and his family, regardless of the medical prognosis of his loved one, and regardless of the immeasurable burdens it may place on him and his family. I’m sure he would be completely ok with all of this.
After all, it’s still a life.
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