It seems like a sick joke, but a US couple, Pete and Alisha Arnold, are letting the public vote on whether or not they should keep their baby, currently nicknamed Wiggles and shown in the ultrasound here at 16 weeks.
Perhaps it is just the logical next step in the recent development of voyeaurism, reality TV, and the hunger for community left by the over-indulgence of individualism? Somewhere between what Blur's Damon Albarn characterised as 'Karaoke Coliseum' (X Factor), Jim Carrey's satirical 'Truman Show' and the Game of Death.
Or perhaps it's just a big pro-life (or pro-choice) publicity stunt?
Since the most popular search item that brings unfamiliar readers to this website is abortion, it is worth reminding ourselves of the latest abortion statistics. In 2009, for women resident in England and Wales:
- the total number of abortions was 189,100 (there were a further 6,643 for non-residents);
- the abortion rate was highest for women aged 19, 20 & 21, at 33 per 1,000;
- the under-18 rate was 17.6 per 1,000 women;
- 94 per cent of abortions were funded by the NHS;
- medical abortions accounted for just 40 per cent of the total;
- 2,085 abortions (just over 1 per cent) were under ground E, risk that the child would be born handicapped.
As we have noted previously, 'Real choice is knowing everything there is to know to make the best possible decision,' and as a society we should be providing honest messages not just about 'goods and services' but also about the wider personal and social implications of sexual intercourse, pregnancy and parenthood, including the long-term physical and psychological risks of terminating a pregnancy (such as an increased risk of negative psychological outcomes† and late miscarriages in future pregnancies‡).
In one sense the couple are right to consult the wider public, for their decision will ultimately affect not just them and their baby, Wiggles, but also their whole social network and we will all pay the costs one way or another. However, such questions of life and death, with huge personal, social and economic impact are not ones to be frivolously voted on.
I am reminded of Professor Wyatt's challenging words, written in the context of end-of-life issues, but no less relevant to start-of-life concerns: 'The increasing public support for the legalisation of medical killing provides an urgent challenge to the medical and legal professions and to the Christian community as a whole. Are Christians capable of living out a practical and countercultural demonstration of the preciousness of human life expressed in human interdependence, personal commitment and burden-sharing?'
† 'A conservative estimate from the best available data is 20 to 30 percent of women who undergo an abortion will experience serious and/or prolonged negative consequences,' including 'depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as suicide ideation and behaviors.' Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Thirty Studies in Five Years Show Abortion Hurts Women's Mental Health (Lifenews)
‡ 'If you suffer from any complications during or after your abortion or have repeated abortions you may have an increased chance of suffering late miscarriages or pre-term deliveries in future pregnancies.' Abortion Side Effects (UKHealthCentre)
Source of chart: Department of Health, Statistical Bulletin: Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2009