Friday, August 11, 2006

Spare them a thought

Guillermo and I were watching late night news last week and we heard the outcome of an appeal case from a few months back...

A young woman with the psychological age of ten was raped and she consequently fell pregnant by the rapist. Abortion is illegal in this catholic country with very few and specific exceptions spelt out in the legislation. Pregnancy resulting from rape in women with mental problems falls into this narrow category. (Note: pregnancy resulted from rape alone is not enough ground for abortion in Argentina)
Despite the circumstances, the catholic judge ruled this girl's case not to be an exception and therefore, the rights to a legal abortion performed in a hospital eluded her. Since this was a high profile case with much media attention, she and her family had no back-street doctor to turn to.

To my surprise, there wasn't as much empathy as one would expect for this young woman who was not only the victim of a heinous crime but is being constantly reminded of her ordeal through suffering her on-going pregnancy. Many porteños phoned into radio programmes supporting the court decision, the young woman's family appealed. They were reassured by the hospital, at the time, that if the court decision is overturned in an appeal, they would carry out the abortion, even at five months.

So we heard that night, the young woman, supported by her family had indeed won the controversial appeal. It was ruled that abortion in her case should have been legal. However, at five months, the hospital now claims that she is not in any condition to go through with the abortion*, her life would be endangered. The reality has remained the same for her; the appeal she won has meant little if not actually an addition of insult to injury by the Argentine justice system.

One can be Pro-life, Pro-choice or neutral; I am neutral, leaning towards Pro-choice if only because I don't agree with giving life and then abandoning it...

While abuela was recovering from her stroke, we ran into a fellow visitor by her bed. This lady visitor was probably in her late fifties; soon after she settled in her chair, she wasted no time in starting a monologue about her two brilliant boys. This proud mother told us her eldest was in New York, attending an MBA programme with the prestigious Colombia and working for a bulge-bracket US investment bank. Her younger was no less amazing; he was doing so well in a scholarship programme in Atlanta, U.S. that he was beating all the yanks in grades, etc.

Towards the end of her visit, this gregarious porteña let slip that she had three sons. However, no further information on her third boy was volunteered. On our way back home, I asked Guillermo who coached her sons in chess when they were younger, what did the third son do? Guillermo said softly and with sadness that the third son had Down's syndrome so he was sent to an institution as soon as he was born.

I felt sick when I heard it; my head was spinning, especially with the image of her overt motherly pride still fresh in my mind. I don't judge people who decide they couldn't cope with having a child with Down's syndrome; it is hard and it is going to be hard for the rest of their lives as parents. If they decide they are too weak to face that scenario, get their tests done and make decisions accordingly, at least they are being honest with themselves.

However, I object to the hypocrisy of giving birth to a life then deem it too shameful or simply not good enough to bring home or bring out to friends and family. Surely Pro-life should not only mean protecting a life up to the point when it comes into the world? Who is going to nurture and love, indeed "protect" would be most appropriate here, these children in an institution?

Sunday is Dia del Niño (Child's Day) in this country. This is the day when children are even more spoiled than usual by their parents and relatives. My warm thoughts are going to go out to the young woman who has motherhood forced upon her and all those children out there who are abandoned for no valid reason other than they are not perfect enough for their parents.
*Just as many had suspected, "health reasons" was an excuse of the public hospital which didn't want to face condemnation from the pro-life public. The girl has since aborted in a private clinic. Thank God.

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