Monday, February 17, 2014

Tough Choices and Freedom

It’s a story that would break even the most bitter heart.

On December 28th, a 32-year-old Canadian woman passed out while her husband was out getting Tylenol for her terrible headache. When he returned and found her unconscious, her husband called 911. The ambulance arrived, and the woman was rushed to the hospital, where it was determined that she’d suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. She was declared brain dead...and she was 22 weeks pregnant.

Her husband was then faced with a nightmare of a decision: he could let his wife and unborn son both go, or he could try and keep his wife’s body alive for 7 more weeks until he could potentially deliver a healthy baby. He made a very brave choice: he decided to try and save his son. Apparently, he was successful, and baby Iver was born alive and healthy.

The man was flooded with emotional and financial support, with $189,613 being raised through a You Caring profile. Oh, here’s another fun fact: because the man lives in Canada, not these United States, he will be given 35 weeks off from work and will receive 55% of his salary.

He’ll certainly have a long road ahead of him. The poor man is devastated that his son will never meet his mother, and that he’s lost his wife. 35 weeks seems like a long time to us, in a country where three months of unpaid time off for the mother (and zero time for the father) is considered a luxury. But thanks to Canada’s healthcare system, paternity leave laws and a caring crowd of people, he and Iver will be all right in the end. And it was his choice. His choice.

I cringe as I compare that to the case of poor Marlise Munoz, the woman in Texas who had a stroke at 14 weeks pregnant and was also declared brain dead. Her poor husband agonized over what to do, but in the end, he talked it over with his wife’s family and they all decided it was best if Marlise was taken off life support. It was what she would have wanted, which, honestly, is the most important factor. But in addition, there were factors: like the fact that the fetus was being deprived of oxygen and could have been born with severe health issues, if it survived at all.

Then there is the fact that 14 weeks is not very far along—barely past the first trimester. That is a long, long time to keep a dead woman hooked up to a bunch of machines in hopes of a miracle. Oh, and let’s not forget that the US of A is far behind most other countries when it comes to healthcare, especially maternity care. Who knows how much Marlise’s husband would have racked up in medical bills, not to mention unpaid time off from work? Is it fair to force that upon a man and have him start his life as a parent with half a million dollars of debt and a possibly stillborn baby?

Well, apparently the Good Ol’ Boy, “small government is best” state of Texas thought it was. The state intervened and forced the family to keep that poor woman on life support so the fetus would have a chance of survival. The government decided that this man and this woman’s parents could not respect the mother’s wishes or do what was best for all parties involved, including the unborn child. They took the rights away, making it clear that everything IS bigger in Texas, including hypocrisy. The family got their wish in the end, but not without a lot of fighting and some severe judgment from the anti-choice crowd.

My biggest problem with the anti-choice crowd is not that they have the opinion that life begins at conception. I strongly disagree with that statement, but it’s their right to believe that. For themselves. My biggest problem with the anti-choice crowd is that they get so hung up on the rights of the unborn that they will destroy the rights of the living—and many lives along the way—because they lose sight of the bigger picture. They get so narrowly focused on one aspect of a difficult decision that they forget that every single circumstance is different and it is simply not their place to intervene.

I’m generalizing here, and I know there are plenty of exceptions—but for the most part, these are the same people who have no problem frying a criminal to death in an electric chair. They’re the same people who have no problem eating a burger from a cow that has been shot up with hormones, forced to share a tiny space with hundreds of its comrades and is tortured to death inhumanely for their consumption. They’d just as soon keep poor Marlise a human incubator for six months, racking up a metric ton of debt for Dad to be saddled with, and then hand him a stillborn or special needs baby because “that’s God’s will.”

I don’t see anything godly in that. I don’t see anything spiritual or holy. I see a selfish need to control for selfish reasons, hidden under the guise of an unselfish moral “mission.” Again, I know not all anti-choice people are that way. But the fact is, there are enough of them running our government that things like this still happen in America in 2014. No matter where you stand politically, that’s sick and it’s wrong.

And if you disagree, perhaps you should think long and hard about those two situations. If the Canadian man wouldn’t have been able to take that time off work knowing he’d have some income and a job when he returned to it, would he have been able to make that same choice? Had we as a country forced him to make that choice—and taken away the paid paternity leave, since in this country that’s a joke—how fair would it have been to set him and his son up for a life of poverty, unemployment and stress?

How “free” does our free country seem now?

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