Is 2.9 Million worth it?

Dear Mother in Portland,

How do you tell your family and friends that you would have “aborted” your daughter?  How do you sleep at night…. knowing that they have all heard those words?  Because – you can’t say: “I want money because I would have aborted you” and “But, I love you” in the same sentence.  I’ve heard you try to say it.. but you can’t.  I hope this lawsuit is worth it.  I understand you have 2 boys.  They are going to grow up remembering this trial… or at least having access to the transcripts.  Yes, I understand that no one is perfect. Yes, I’ve read the statistics on how many mothers abort children with Down Syndrome.  BUT – even the most liberal part of me, the part that most wants to give you the benefit of the doubt… doesn’t quite understand how you can look at a baby after they are born and still say… “I would have aborted you.” I understand the idea of I’m so glad I didn’t abort you… but not the anger that would unleash a lawsuit because your abortion did not happen.

image

Photo from National Association for Down Syndrome

 

Again… this is not about abortion.  I’m talking about telling the world that you have a 4 year old daughter.  And you are so upset that you couldn’t abort her – that you have filed a lawsuit. 

 

You can call it whatever you like.  You can say that money is going for her care.  You can describe the challenges you face.  You can spin life into whatever you like.  I’m not buying it.  Yeah – I have to hold my son down to brush his teeth also.  So What.  He is a miracle.  He is beautiful.  I would never. never. never – in a million years “wish I had aborted him.”  I could even give some sympathy to a mother in the initial stages of mourning who experiences those feelings.  But, for the mother of a 4 year old?  I have none.

 

I instead have questions for you.  What if one of your other children was autistic?  What if someone in your family had an accident? (I don’t really want to make a list of all the things that can happen during this wild ride of life.) – but … I guess what I’m trying to say is – accidents happen.  Even if this genetic screening was done improperly – accidents happen.  I just cannot grasp that your legacy will be this.  The message you send to your other children… I would have aborted my “imperfect” child.  Not, I love my “child with imperfections” no matter what. You may not realize it, but this is the legacy you have now left.

 

The money for your daughter’s care will be nice, I’m sure.  But was it worth it?  Will it really be worth it in the end?

 

Again… I want to be totally clear on this post.  I am heartsick that a parent would have this lawsuit when the child was 4.  There is bonding that should happen between birth and year 4.  I am not faulting people who have abortions.  I am not arguing against people who realize there is a genetic abnormality and choose abortion.  (It is not my personal choice, but … again – that isn’t what this post is about.)  I can also give empathy to those mothers who have a child and have thoughts that run through their head during the grieving process…. And for each mother this process is different.

 

Age 4.  Age 4 – and you are still going to go on public record as, “I would have aborted my child.”  This makes me sad in so many ways.

 

I’m sure there are those out there who feel passionately on this issue – both in support and against my point of view.  I do allow and encourage other points of view in the comments… but we must remember to be respectful of each other.

 

Another great neutral post on this can be found HERE.

Comments

  1. Kristen says:

    I don’t know enough about this to comment on it but I can say that you should keep writing about things that you feel passionately about. It seems that words come a lot more freely when you do. It also let’s everyone get to know you more. It also makes me proud to call you a friend because you defend and protect your beliefs. xo, The other Kristen

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks Kristen – you rock. Thanks for always encouraging me to be passionate. I worry – sometimes.. about how it will come off. So – thanks.

  2. Dana K says:

    I have similar thoughts and I’m not sure how fair it is of me to have them. My gut revolts at the idea of publicly going on record to say that I would have aborted my special needs child. My brain wonders if there are extenuating financial hardships & the family sees this as the only way to get needed money for the child’s medical care.

    I just don’t know. As with everything, there are so many unknowns. Heartbreaking, either way.

    • Kristen says:

      I know.. it really is heartbreaking. – either way. Thanks for commenting. And telling me that I’m not alone – but I do get your “not sure how fair it is to have them” part. I totally understand that. I’m just opinionated ;)

  3. Shell says:

    Have you ever read Jodi Piccoult’s Handle with Care? This reminds me of that.

    • Kristen says:

      No – but you aren’t the only person who mentioned this. Someone at BlogHer brought that up too. I might have to go grab that book.

  4. Mom On A Line says:

    This story has been floating around my circle of special needs moms for a couple of days now and it makes me sad every time I see it. I can understand trying to figure out a way to be able to afford the best care possible for your child and seeing a lawsuit as an opportunity (some people don’t really understand the agony that can be lawsuits before they start). And people can be desperate, so desperate they will do and say anything to get money. That is the problem with states that allow wrongful birth claims. When people get desperate and do things out of a want for money, they are not necessarily thinking through the long term ramifications, just as you explained so well (although I’d hope their lawyer explained it). I don’t know the statistics, but, I believe, most states do not allow wrongful birth claims because it is presumed that the benefits the family receives from the birth of a child far outweigh any additional costs for having to raise the child. It is unfortunate that not all states follow this rationale. It is even more unfortunate that parents would put their children through this rather than teaching them other ways to sustain themselves. Perhaps, if medical care was freely available for everyone in this country, people wouldn’t need to file suits like this to cover expenses. But that is a different explosive topic, for a different day, and a different place.

    • Kristen says:

      Everything you just said was perfect. It is like we could be writing two sides of the same coin. Love it. Maybe someday we can cross post :)

  5. Sili says:

    I had not read about this case but I will now. And I share the feelings that you so eloquently put down. It is not an abortion issue, I agree. It is an issue of looking into that baby girl’s face, seeing the glint in her eyes day in and day out for 4 years, laughing at the things that she does to amuse you (because don’t they all do this?), holding her and realizing how much your heart aches with the love you feel for her. And then turning around and saying you wish it weren’t so in a court.

    I am sure this mother is conflicted and send her prayers that she might make the decisions that are right for her and her family that will ensure some semblance of connectedness and love remain after this is all over.

    • Kristen says:

      Yes… exactly. But you are right. I pray that they find a peace in the way they explain this (etc) after it is all over.

  6. Laurie says:

    I do not think that anything is ever as cut-and-dry as that article presents, so let me play Devil’s Advocate.

    First of all, I am willing to bet that the lawsuit was filed shortly after the baby was born and diagnosed with the syndrome– not four years later. It takes a long time for lawsuits to come to trial, and as that is what is implied happened here, I will not accuse the parents of waiting to file til their child turned 4. More likely, they were deep in that grieving stage that you identified in your post when they sought legal advice, and this is, unfortunately, the name that has been given to this particular sort of case…if the lawsuit had a less pejorative term given to it, I think people might look at it differently.

    Secondly, wrongful birth is, in essence, malpractice. If the doctor has a responsibility to the patient to accurately diagnose a condition in utero, then if they fail at properly reading a test and prohibit an individual from making a decision based on those results, it is malpractice; it is not as simple as saying it is “human error” because that is the job they were hired to do as the doctor or specialist. Any other doctor guilty of the same error would be facing a lawsuit, too– especially if that error lead to delayed medical treatment and/or death.

    The tricky part comes in the emotional aspect of the decision faced by the parent in the situation– to choose to have a baby if it is diagnosed with a disorder or not. For someone who is opposed to abortion, there is no excuse; genetic testing would likely never be done in the first place and aborting that child would never be an option or an issue. However, for anyone who believes in a woman’s right to choose, IF she would have chosen to abort the baby had tests been properly read, then the doctor is guilty of malpractice. Again…I am not sure why it is not just called medical malpractice to begin with~ probably because it is attached to something so sensitive as abortion. The medical costs are real issues, and whether we like it or not, it is an important part of this case that must be considered. There is also a lawsuit called Wrongful Life– the difference is that the child brings it about and, essentially, blames the doctor and/or parent for giving him/her life when they feel they have no “quality of life”. They resent the life they were born into and can sue… is that something to attack? Or a reason to sympathize? Or maybe both?

    The unfortunate aspect of this case is that it goes on record that the parents admit that had they been given the correct results AT THE TIME IT WAS REQUESTED, they might have made a different decision. I do not think it is fair or right to pass judgment on someone for admitting that, had they known then what they know now, they would have chosen a different path. I absolutely believe that it is possible to say (and do) that you love a child– even if that child might not have existed under different circumstances. The lawsuit has to do with decisions that would have been made during pregnancy; it does NOT have to do with wishing your child were dead now that he/she is a living, breathing individual with a personality, a life, and a connection to those around her who love and care for her. I think it is a logical fallacy to suggest that one is equal to another.

    That said, I do feel for the parents. I do not know their personal situation, their financial situation, or their emotional make-up. However, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt and offer them compassion and support~ no matter how you look at the situation, it can not have been easy for them.

  7. OK – deep breath – I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here. Having read that entire article, I did not interpret the Levy’s lawsuit as a reaction to “wishing” they could have aborted their daughter, or being “upset” that they were unable to. I merely see it as a response to a pretty egregious error made by the medical center at the time.

    The article states that they already had two sons and believed their family was complete when Mrs. Levy unexpectedly got pregnant again. She also knew early on in the pregnancy that she was apparently at a high risk for giving birth to a child with Down’s. Therefore, objectively speaking, the fact that she would have terminated the pregnancy had she learned the truth early on, IMO, is simply the result of she and her husband coming to the mutual decision that they felt their family was, in fact, complete and did not want to incur the extra costs – both financial and emotional – that invariably come with a special needs child.

    I don’t doubt that they do love their daughter very much – the fact that they are openly worried about what will happen to her in adulthood after they’re both gone says as much to me. And it seems the money they are seeking would go toward the child’s care for the rest of her life. So, I don’t necessarily perceive the lawsuit as being the result of anger and regret. I instead perceive it as a couple just trying to do right by their child – which, in their eyes, is what they would have been doing had they learned about the Down’s early on and decided to terminate the pregnancy as a result.

    All that said, I can completely understand why you, as the mother of a special needs child, would feel so passionately about this.

  8. Kristen, it hurt my heart so when I read about this case. The poor boys. To hear your own parents say “If we had only known the truth, we would have aborted your sister before she was born.” And then they have to look at their sweet sister, whom I know they love, and they have to decide whether that is good or bad. There is too much fear and not enough love in this world and this case absolutely proves that fact. I’m glad you had the courage to write about this.

  9. It's about the Law says:

    The laws are what they are.

    You can try to get them changed. You can petition your congressperson. You can create a viral video or wear a sandwich board downtown protesting the laws.

    However, right now, we have to all obey the laws that are on the books. Otherwise, society degrades into chaos.

    As things exist today, same-sex marriage, marijuana use and stem cell research are illegal in most states. The national speed limit is 75 MPH, a man can go to war at 18 years old, but can’t drink alcohol until he’s 21 and a woman has the “right to choose”.

    That’s just the way it is.

    You may disagree with one (or more) of those laws. However, we have to collectively obey ALL of them to keep society functioning. If you don’t like the laws, vote for someone who better shares your views.

    If a doctor’s medical malpractice results in a person losing their rights under the law (any of them), there are procedures in place for addressing such malpractice.

    This has very little to do with a person’s love for their child. This has to do with the law.

    If a doctor is guilty of medical malpractice, and that malpractice results in the loss of a person’s legal rights, that person is obligated to address the wrong-doing to prevent further occurrences of that behavior.

    Otherwise, medical malpractice would be everywhere, and we would ALL suffer as a result. Don’t worry about the doctor, medical malpractice insurance is considered just a normal cost of doing business. Those policies exist specifically to pay out to people when medical malpractice mistakes are made.

  10. Holy crap. And WHAT THE WHAT?!

    This is why I am GLAD I do NOT watch the news, because I would be going NUTS over this.

    I DO NOT understand how you can look at a baby AFTER they are born and say… “I would have aborted you.”
    I CAN ONLY understand the idea of I’m so glad I didn’t abort you.

    Said the girl who’s pro-choice.

  11. Wow. This case really hits close to home. I had a CVS during my pregnancy b/c I was at a high risk for having a child with Down Syndrome. We initially planned the test b/c we wanted the option to terminate the pregnancy very early on. But then we realized there was no way we would be able to do so, even if we received bad news. It was our child, and we wanted it. We decided to move forward with the test so we could have the information and prepare properly if we were going to have a special needs child. We were told our daughter was normal. If she had been born with Down’s (she wasn’t), I probably would have wanted to sue, too. Not b/c I would have ended my pregnancy, but due to the emotional toll and shock. That is an egregious error. The CVS is the most accurate prenatal test available. It’s not flawless, but I can understand how this couple must have felt.

    As some people have pointed out, the parents likely brought suit shortly after their daughter’s birth; it just took this long to go to trial. Have they thought of the potential emotional impact this might have on their children? None of us are in the position to say. I have no doubt they love their daughter, however.

    A very thought-provoking post!

    • Kristen says:

      I remember the shock of finding out Alexander’s diagnosis. Honestly? If I could have sued those doctors right then and there – I would have. I would love to sue the cruel doctors who gave me the news on Mother’s day – when I was alone. But… now – 2 years with Alexander, I can’t imagine going through with the lawsuit. I guess that is my point. I could see people taking those steps initially … out of shock or grief, but it is hard to imagine going through with it. I’m gad you shared your story. I’m sure they do love her.

  12. Meg says:

    Well, with the exception of the legal lesson up there, I pretty much think the comments were well thought out and spoken. Here is my 2 cents and it is that only. As a parent of one, one beautiful, now 9 year old girl, I cannot imagine ever suing anyone over her existence no matter what her flaw. I struggled for 10 years to have a baby…any baby. My own, in-vitro, adoption, you name it..I tried to have it. We came very close to adopting but the young girl had a change of heart after she delivered her baby. It darn near killed me. I could understand why she would. It was her baby after all. She was scared. But when she saw her baby…huzzah!

    Then my husband and I simply gave up. We decided that this must not have been what was in store for us. We got big slobbery dogs. After getting the dogs trained up and all…I learned finally I was indeed pregnant. It was shocking. I had every test. I would not have cared what they said at that point. I was finally going to be a mother. She has been my whole heart ever since. I treasure her. But if she had looked like the thing from Alien, I would have loved her just the same…

    Thanks for letting me comment =)

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