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Consider the Risk

Posted Oct 14 2008 5:00am

Fetal Hand Grasp Photo by Michael Clancy

This photo was taken during a spina bifida corrective procedure. Here is how the photographer Michael Clancy describes the experience:

"During a spina bifida corrective procedure at twenty-one weeks in utero, Samuel thrusts his tiny hand out of the surgical opening of his mother's uterus. As the doctor lifts his hand, Samuel reacts to the touch and squeezes the doctor's finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shakes the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. At that moment, I took this "Fetal Hand Grasp" photo. As a photojournalist, my job is to tell stories through pictures. The experience of taking this photograph has had a profound effect on me, and I'm proud to share this moment with you." Michael Clancy

Canada is one of the only countries in the world with no laws limiting abortion. Abortions can take place even up to the moment of birth. About 105,000 abortions are performed in Canada every year ( Stats Can ). Although the majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester, abortions are quite easily accessible up to about 21 weeks which is the same gestation as this baby who is receiving life-saving surgery.

When in a crisis situation our natural tendency is to try and fix the problem as soon as possible. For many women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy or who have received an adverse prenatal diagnosis, terminating the pregnancy is often their initial response. As a result, they rush into the decision to have an abortion out of desperation, without really educating themselves on the risks involved, and end up regretting it. As I heard one post-abortive woman put it: "Abortion does not solve the problem, it only creates new ones... I wish I had known".

In fact, there are many women who wish they had know that this was not actually a clump of tissue, as they were told, but a living baby with brain waves and a beating heart. If you are facing a decision of whether or not to abort, it is important that you are aware that already by week 5 (which is before most women even find out they are pregnant) the foundation of every organ system is established and beginning to develop. Brain waves can be detected and the beating heart can be seen on ultrasound. By week 9 the baby can respond to touch and feel pain, by 11 weeks the developing baby has all the major organ systems and is a distinctly recognizable human being, the baby can yawn and suck ( the first 9 months ).

It is also important that you know the physical and emotional risks involved with an abortion. Although not all women experience all of these risks, you deserve to know what could potentially happen. Some of the immediate physical complications could include: hemorrhage, puncture or tearing of the womb, infection, cervical lacerations. Some of the long terms physical complications could include: infertility, sterility, future miscarriages, future premature deliveries, future tubal pregnancies, breast cancer, cervical cancer. Some of the emotional effects could include: depression, thoughts of suicide, self-destructive behaviour, isolation, guilt or shame, addictive behaviours, emotional numbness, disturbing dreams, breakdown in relationships, difficulty bonding with present or future children ( Physicians for life ).

If you have received an adverse prenatal diagnosis, you very likely are facing a lot of pressure to abort. The pressure may be coming from doctors, your spouse/boyfriend, family, friends. This can be a very scary time. But before making the same mistake as many other women have made, please do not rush into having an abortion. Find out the facts first, don't be misled that this is just a clump of tissue and that abortion is a quick, risk-free, fix to the problem. The internet has an endless amount of information on all the risks mentioned here, look into these risks into more detail...find out the truth about abortion. Here is one woman's experience with abortion:

My favourite song is ‘Amazing Grace’…I was 16 the first time I got pregnant, I thought if my Mom thinks its okay to have an abortion, and the Government thinks it okay ,and the doctors think its okay, then it must be…I was dead wrong. I, like many women used abortion as a form of birth control… the doctor told me that it was just a “clump of tissue”, another lie. My babies had a beating heart, vital organs and perfect tiny arms, legs, fingers and toes at 9 weeks! They also told me it was a “safe” procedure…but I got an infection, damaged cervix, and badly scarred uterus! For years I fought depression, guilt and had unresolved grief. God is so wonderful that he granted me another child, SHAWN, a survivor of my womb…and he is the greatest joy of my life…but doctors say that my uterus was so damaged from abortions, that they couldn’t believe I had him! Sadly, we were never able to have any more children. (Silent No More)

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