Abortion and Perinatal Hospice

5 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

I sent this Letter to the Editor of the New York Times today, after a loved one brought the Op/Ed “My Abortion, at 23 Weeks” by Judy Nicastro to my attention.

TO THE EDITOR:

Re “My Abortion, at 23 Weeks” (op/ed, June 21):

Judy Nicastro makes a compelling and heartfelt case for why her husband and she chose to end the life of their unborn son, who had a prenatal diagnosis which was life-limiting, at 23 weeks gestation. Ms. Nicastro furthermore relates her experience to the “trend toward restricting second and even first-trimester abortions.” Though I support a woman’s right to choose, I also believe that it is important for people to know that there is a third option, known as perinatal hospice and palliative care (see http://perinatalhospice.org/FAQs.html), which Ms. Nicastro did not share about in her Op/Ed.

As a mother who also had to make an anguishing decision in my second trimester, with my second child, my husband and I chose perinatal hospice for our daughter who had a rare and severe combination of congenital heart defects. Ms. Nicastro and her husband could have chosen to carry their son to term and deliver him with no extraordinary life saving measures, if he survived his birth, and then used palliative care until the time of his natural death. I am not sure if this omission in the Op/Ed was intentional or due to lack of knowledge about perinatal hospice.

According to perinatalhospice.org, “Perinatal hospice incorporates the philosophy and expertise of hospice and palliative care into the care of this population of patients. For parents who receive a life-limiting prenatal diagnosis and wish to continue their pregnancies, perinatal palliative care helps them embrace whatever life their baby might have before and after birth. This support begins at the time of diagnosis, not just after the baby is born. It can be thought of as ‘hospice in the womb’ (including birth planning and preliminary medical decision-making before the baby is born) as well as more traditional hospice and palliative care at home after birth (if the baby lives longer than a few minutes or hours)…. This approach supports families through the rest the pregnancy, through decision-making before and after birth, and through their grief. Perinatal hospice also enables families to make meaningful plans for the baby’s life, birth, and death, honoring the baby as well as the baby’s family.”

As we say in the perinatal bereavement support group that I participate in, “we make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time.” I appreciate why Ms. Nicastro and her husband did what they believed was best for their family. Likewise, my family and I do not regret choosing perinatal hospice and palliative care for our daughter Molly who lived for about 15 minutes, in the arms of her father, after she was born. Molly was able to be baptized by our pastor in the delivery room, during her short life outside of my womb, and knew only our love and care until she passed away. We were given a private room at the hospital to spend as much time as we wanted with our baby girl, after she died, including our then four-year old son and extended family. We are forever grateful for the gift of time that we had with Molly during our pregnancy and her short life after she was born. I share my story in the hope of educating others and encouraging dialogue about all of the options available when it comes to facing prenatal life-limiting diagnoses.

KATHY BENSON
Chicago, Ill., June 21, 2013
The writer is a contributing editor for Exhale Literary Magazine and blogs at BereavedandBlessed.com about life and parenting after secondary infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss and neonatal death. She also contributed some of her family’s story to “A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby’s Life is Expected to Be Brief” by Amy Kuebelbeck and Deborah L. David, Ph.D. (John Hopkins University Press, 2011).

Cross-posted on Bereaved and Blessed.

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