A Texas mother of two named Kate Cox, discovered her fetus was developing with a twisted spine, clubbed feet, irregular skull and abnormal heart development. She’d been to the emergency room three times with cramping, diarrhea and unexplained fluid leakage. Her doctor confirmed her fetus was developing with full trisomy 18, an extreme chromosomal abnormality. If her child was not stillborn, the baby ‘s condition was incompatible with life outside of the womb.
Post-Dobbs Texas law prohibits abortion even in this scenario, so after the courts ruled against her, Mrs. Cox left the state to terminate her pregnancy. The internet and talking heads are describing this as a “hard case for the Republicans in 2024.” That may be, but there is one aspect of this story that seems to be totally misunderstood.
First, let me say, while I don’t know Kate Cox, but I have known women who received a diagnosis of “condition incompatible with life outside the womb.” The grief is horrific, and the mental anguish is exactly what you would expect to see from any parent who’s child has died or is dying. I cannot imagine the pain of it and my heart and prayers go out to every one of them.
That said, there is a HUGE difference between stillborn, or immediate death after birth and BEING THE CAUSE OF THAT DEATH. Whether the Texas Law or a law like Florida’s with exception for fetal abnormalities is better politically, I can’t say. But I do know the people who are saying, “Oh the poor mom! Having to continue her pregnancy because of horrible legislation,” have no idea what they are talking about.
The mother of a child with fetal abnormalities who dies in-utero is the mother of a dead child. But so is the mother who aborts a child with fetal abnormalities. The mom is still the only person on earth who knew that baby. She is the only one whose DNA will carry that baby’s DNA for the rest of her life. That mom is never going to NOT be the mother of a dead child. The abortion doesn’t erase the fact of the baby’s existence from the mommy. She will grieve the loss either way. Abortion doesn’t make the grief any less, and in some ways most people don’t realize, it AMPLIFIES it.
For any man who might be reading this, finding out you're pregnant is not the same for the unexpectedly expectant Dad: the pregnancy may swim to the surface of his consciousness a few times a day, but its nothing like what's going on in her head. An unexpectedly pregnant woman can lie to herself before taking a pregnancy test, but that's the definitive slap in the face: YOU ARE PREGNANT! And if she didn’t expect to be pregnant, she is slapped back and forth like a ping-pong ball between extremes, excitement and horror 24/7. -- in one second, yay! a baby to get me UN-Pregnant as fast as possible in the next.
She may have daydreams of baby names, baby décor, baby cuddles in living color, fully fleshed out, indistinguishable-from-reality types dreams. Even the woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant, is wired up that way. But the brain cannot distinguish between reality and that which is vividly imagined.
The closest experience for a man might be to imagine you work your whole life toward the goal of becoming a professional athlete. You play on school teams, and junior league teams, you train, you workout, you sacrifice, you hone your skills. You get a scholarship to play at the college you hoped for. Your career entices scouts to consider drafting you to professional sports – but in the last game of you college career, you get a career ending injury and will never play another game.
Your lifelong dream of playing in the pros dies. But everyone around you shrugs their shoulders and says, “Oh, that’s too bad. But at least you’re young enough to do something else with your life.” Do you really think you would just go on about your life as if you had never imagined palying in the pros? Would you really expect to be the same person in every respect after such a devastating loss? I doubt it.
That's what it's like for a mother who aborts. She has a dead baby, but there will be people involved in the decision who will actually say “Nevermind, you can have other children when the situation is better.” These people would likely never say, “Oh, how awful that your son Jason died. But, nevermind, you can have another son.” or “What a relief, you still have two other children.” That's just a sample of the insensitve and cruel comments a post-abortive woman hears.
For everyone else but her, that baby isn’t a person. But to the mother, that baby is a son or daughter who literally cannot be forgotten -- in exactly the same way a child whose face was kissed, and bottom diapered will never be forgotten. If mom felt the baby kick or heard a heartbeat on ultrasound, a diagnosis of severe fetal abnormalities doesn't change anything! For her, that baby is a baby.
The only post-abortive women I've ever met who successfully pretended they are NOT the mother of a dead child, are the ones who took the morning-after pill or aborted very early without seeing an ultrasound. And even for some of them, as years go by, it gets harder.
It changes everything to go from being a mother who's praying for a miracle, fighting against the odds on your baby’s behalf, the only one who knows that little person did NOT like spicy food, or that she might have been a night owl – to the one who said, “Terminate it.” Even knowing that statisitically, 95% of trisomy 18 pregnancies end in miscarriage, there are some babies who do survive past birth and live. There is a woman believed to be one of the oldest people with the condition who lived to 40. That's the data point that haunts the mother who terminates because of fetal abnormalities.
To everyone else, it seems cruel to try to “force” Kate Cox to carry the pregnancy as long as she can, but, to me, it’s even more cruel to imply, suggest or assume that being the cause of the death of her baby will make anything BETTER for her. It’s one thing to accept the circumstances and the loss as horribly unfair, and another to live with the knowledge that she ended her own baby’s life. That she, the baby’s only earthy advocate, chose to end it.
The best moms in the world are still hyper-critical of every little decision they make regarding their kids, always second-guessing. Imagine what it’s like to have a voice in your head that says “You decided one of your children did not deserve a chance to live.”
I have so much sympathy for Kate Cox. She has experienced all the grief of the diagnosis, all the crushing defeat of the legal forces who lined up against her, and public scrutiny of her very private hell. But more than all of that, now she will live knowing she believed a lie – that abortion would everything go back the way it was.