When Mrs P was expecting our eldest, she was offered an amniocentesis on the grounds that she was a “mature primipara” or first-time mother. (Actually, for ages I thought they’d said “mature primate” which I thought a tad insensitive.)
The point was that older mothers (they said) are more likely to give birth to a baby with Downs Syndrome and by drawing of some of the fluid from within the womb, it could be tested to see if this remote risk was the case.
I had reservations about it. Partly because the procedure itself carries a degree of risk to the unborn child, but mostly because supposing, just supposing, the baby should turn out to be Downs Syndrome, what would we do then?
We had discussed it beforehand, but hadn’t reached any firm conclusions. We went along with it in a ‘cross that bridge when we come to it’ frame of mind, but in the event of bad news, we would have been faced with two choices — either go through with the pregnancy and accept the consequences, or have a termination.
Fortunately, there were no complications and a few months later Miss P arrived in the world, but I’ve often about what we would have decided and I’m still not sure today. You see, I’m ambivalent on the whole abortion issue and can see the arguments on both sides.
Everyone has a “right” to life in the same way that they have a “right” not to get knocked down by a bus; all very laudable in an ideal world but not much use in the real one. But something inside me says that even a damaged embryo should have the opportunity to make a go of it.
On the other hand, should a mother have no choice but to give birth to a child that she knows is going to need 24/7 care for the rest of its life? Or, indeed, should a woman be forced to go through with a normal pregnancy knowing that she cannot provide for the child?
Difficult choices. And that is what makes the abortion issue such a profound moral quandary and the very reason why it should not be made into an issue during the coming general election as some people want it to be.
Once the yah-boo politicians get their hands on it, all rational debate will go out the window. This is something requiring calm, reasoned debate, not the white heat of an election campaign.