The Zika virus has fueled the debate about abortion in some of the most pro-life countries in the world. I understand the fear that is behind this debate. The thought of life with a child who is likely never to gain independence and who will require extra care for her entire life can be daunting, to say the least. In fact, when I heard the news about the Zika virus spreading up to Mexico, my own fear sky-rocketed and I told my husband that we should delay pregnancy even though we have been wanting to get pregnant for several months now. However, the reasoning that supports abortion just isn’t right, even with the spread of the Zika virus.
The easiest way to illustrate why it isn’t right is to start with a slightly different scenario and then compare. Let’s say a woman bears a child and he is perfectly healthy, as he is expected to be, based on the course of pregnancy. A year later, that baby is in a car accident and suffers brain injury. (The symptoms of brain injury are very similar to microcephaly.) With a little bit of medical care, the child becomes stable but it is clear that he will suffer the complications of his brain injury for the rest of his life. Would society accept that the mother of this one-year-old should have the right to end his life? Would they even discuss that as an option? After all, the mom’s life is going to be greatly affected by this baby’s brain injuries. The baby she thought would grow up to be healthy, independent, and neurotypical is now at high risk of needing care for the rest of his life. He might be demanding and never grow out of it. He might be expensive. The emotional shock and adjustment will be exhausting, and she might not recover from it for a long time.
Because society can see the one-year-old, because they can see his face and it’s easier to see how he is like the rest of us, most people would shudder at the thought of allowing his mother to choose to end his life for her own sake. Society defends and supports the one-year-old. They point out he has potential. They say he can still do incredible things. Instead of saying his life is expendable they set up The Special Olympics for him and donate millions towards research to help children with special needs.
Society also helps the family. Government programs (like Medicare in the United States) help pay for his care. Other government programs, as well as non-profit organizations, help the family by providing child care and early-intervention services that will hopefully help the child become more independent.
It’s depressing to think that if this same child had experienced brain damage in the womb, he could just be aborted at the mother’s whim, and society’s hands are legally tied. What is the difference between a one-year-old and a fetus? About a year of development. And what is the difference to a mother’s body between bearing a child with special needs versus a medically normal child? Nothing. What is the difference in the mother’s life whether the child is born with special needs or develops them a year after birth? Very little. In fact, at the time of birth, the mother would have more options. She could place the child for adoption or take advantage of infant safe haven laws and baby hatch laws where they are in place.
In short, the Zika virus doesn’t justify abortion because life is the most basic right granted to any of us in society, and everyone deserves that right. In case you or someone you know is feeling anxious about the Zika virus and microcephaly, I will include a range of links for you below – including links to informational websites, blogs, and support groups. Information can help ease anxiety. I know there are many people in severe crisis, and we need to work on ways to effectively help these people through. But abortion is not the answer. Abortion is the end of hope, not the beginning of it. As long as there is life, there is hope. Life is precious. Let’s respect it.