Pope Francis said Saturday that abortion is never the answer to difficult prenatal diagnoses, calling selective abortion of the disabled the “expression of an inhuman eugenics mentality.”
“Fear and hostility towards disability often lead to the choice of abortion, configuring it as a practice of ‘prevention,’” Pope Francis said May 25.
“But the Church’s teaching on this point is clear: human life is sacred and inviolable and the use of prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes must be strongly discouraged because it is the expression of an inhuman eugenics mentality, which removes the possibility for families to accept, embrace and love their weakest children,” he said.
The pope addressed a Vatican conference on perinatal hospice highlighting medical care and ministries that support families who have received a prenatal diagnosis indicating that their baby will likely die before or just after birth.
“Yes to Life: Caring for the precious gift of life in its frailness,” a conference organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life May 23-25 brought together medical professionals, bioethicists, ministry providers, and families from 70 countries to discuss how best to provide medical, psychological, and emotional support for parents expecting a child with a life-limiting illness.
“Sometimes people ask me, what does perinatal hospice look like? And I answer, ‘It looks like love,’” author and mother Amy Kuebelbeck shared at the conference.
Kuelbeck was 25 weeks pregnant when she received the diagnosis that her unborn son had an incurable heart defect. She carried her pregnancy to term and had a little more than 2 hours with her son, Gabriel, before he died after birth.
“It was one of the most profound experiences of my life,” Kuelbeck said. She wrote a memoir of her experience of grief, loss, and love called “Waiting with Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby’s Brief Life.”
“I know that some people assume that continuing a pregnancy with a baby who will die is all for nothing. But it isn’t all for nothing. Parents can wait with their baby, protect their baby, and love their baby for as long as that baby is able to live. They can give that baby a peaceful life – and a peaceful goodbye. That’s not nothing. That is a gift,” Kuelbeck wrote in “Waiting with Gabriel.”
Dr. Byron Calhoun, a medical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who first coined the term “perinatal hospice” spoke at the conference. His research has found that allowing parents of newborns with a terminal prenatal diagnosis the chance to be parents can result in less distress for the mother than pregnancy termination.
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