Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Happy Birthday

Today, Susan and I will celebrate our son Peter's third birthday. As many participants on this blog know, we became Peter's (and his younger brother Philip's) parents through adoption. And it is because of this experience, being the father of children who could have easily been exterminated in utero, that I find myself reacting to stories concerning abortion in a much more visceral way than before. Rob's post the other day concerning the story in the NYT regarding the woman who chose to abort two of her three children was deeply troubling for a host of reasons, including as Mark pointed out in his post, the seeming lack of appreciation of the gravity of the matter.

Rob's story of moving to New York and of being asked in an open and matter-of-fact way whether his pregnant wife intended to have the baby reminded me of a similar experience we had. Like many couples who ultimately adopt, my wife and I experienced problems trying to conceive. We consulted with fertility specialists both in Chicago and in Michigan where we lived for two years. Like many women in the same situation, Susan was put on a hormonal drug therapy. She had a great response to these drugs, so great in fact that the chances of conceiving large numbers of children is a single cycle were high. As a consequence, some months we opted not to try and have a child. On several occasions, including one that was particulary vivid, we were told that "If you're worried about multiple births you can always do selective reduction." The way in which the nurse said this was so banal and inconsequential that if she had been a waitress she might as well have said "The sandwich comes with soup and salad, but you don't have to get either of them if you don't want to."

Today, Peter is a happy, smiling three-year-old. He is the joy of our life! We thank God every day that Peter's birth-mother had the courage to see the pregnancy through so that he could now enjoy the life he has. But was it her decision that made him a human being? Was it her decision that bestowed "personhood" upon him? Certainly his life span would have been different if she had chosen otherwise, but would he have been any different? I have trouble seeing how an affirmative answer to any of these questions can be squared with how we respond to questions concerning identity, humanity and personhood in other settings.

If his birth-mother had opted for another decision, a decision which our culture encourages and defends as emblematic of true freedom, no one would have ever seen his face, except of course those who would have brought about his death . . . and they would have averted their eyes! Today we look into his eyes with joy and thanksgiving.


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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