Now that the Supreme Court has handed down its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, overturning Roe and Casey and returning abortion jurisprudence to the states, many are asking, “what about abortion in the hard cases?”
By the “hard cases,” they often mean — what about the cases where a mother is given a fatal fetal diagnosis, in other words, when a mother is told that her unborn child has a disease or disorder that is deemed “incompatible with life,” or would make his chance of survival very low.
But I know from personal experience that these cases are not hard at all. Let me explain.
In December of 2021, my husband and I received the news that our beloved eighth child likely had Trisomy 18. Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, is a severe chromosomal abnormality. Children with Trisomy 18 have three copies of the 18th chromosome. This condition can be life-limiting or even fatal. His 20-week sonogram and subsequent sonograms, fetal echocardiogram, and a blood test confirmed that he likely had Trisomy 18, with many of the typical and severe Trisomy 18 markers detected.
A high-risk physician asked us if we wanted time to “think about what to do.” By this, she implied we might want to consider killing our child because of the diagnosis.
My husband and I immediately told her that we loved this child and would fight for him every minute he was alive and asked about treatment options. The doctor was a little taken aback and asked if we were sure. Maybe we needed more time to think about this? I said we were sure that killing our child was not an option.
We fought for our unborn son, Bosco, for the next four months. We went to countless appointments, including dozens of sonograms, always monitoring his growth, amniotic fluid, and the severity of his condition. We researched Trisomy 18 and found an enormous online support community of families who had living children with Trisomy 18, a hope that few doctors would ever give us.
We met with the NICU director and made a birth plan for our son. By 36 weeks, Bosco’s condition was becoming more concerning, so our induction was scheduled. We walked into the hospital that morning hoping for a miracle but knowing we most likely would not leave the hospital with a living baby. We knew we had done everything we could to give Bosco the best chance at life, and we prayed he would be born alive. Sadly, our beloved son, Bosco Joseph Paul, died during childbirth on April 20, 2021. He was delivered peacefully into my hands, adored by his brothers and sisters shortly after his delivery, and buried lovingly by our family and friends. Bosco was loved every moment he was with us; his life brought us so much joy.
One hundred and twenty people came to Bosco’s funeral Mass, even though they had never met him. They came to support our entire family and to bear witness to the value of each human life and the enormity of our loss. Bosco was buried on the top of a hill in the children’s section of our local Catholic cemetery. We picked his plot because it sits directly downhill from a beautiful memorial bench. My husband and I have spent hours sitting on that bench over the last year and a half. We have watched our children frolic up and down the hill endlessly. They bring race cars and trinkets to put on his grave; we decorate it each holiday. When we drive by the cemetery on our way out of town, everyone waves and yells, “Bye, Bosco!” Of course, we know Bosco’s soul is not there, but having him buried nearby and being able to visit him often have been a tremendous comfort to our entire family. His gravestone is an enduring sign to the world that our son existed, and his life, while brief, mattered. He is loved. Visiting his grave often allows us to continue to show him that love in some small way.
Bosco’s diagnosis and death were undoubtedly unexpected and undesired events in our life. But unexpected and undesired doesn’t mean bad. While it was genuinely excruciating to lose our beloved son before he even took his first breath, loving him was not hard. Carrying him to term and fighting for his proper medical care was more work than any of my other pregnancies, but it was worth it.
People often say these are “such difficult situations,” but I completely disagree. There is actually nothing difficult about not killing your child, no matter his diagnosis. Losing a child is difficult, yes, but choosing to kill that child intentionally doesn’t make it any easier. Caring for a terminally ill or chronically ill child is difficult, yes, and families deserve a lot of support in those situations, yes. Meanwhile, it isn’t difficult to grasp the truth that we all really know: no disease or disorder would ever justify intentionally killing one’s child, born or unborn.
Abortion supporters like to use the line “you don’t know what you’d do unless you were in that situation” to shut down any discussion of the “hard cases.” But, in my view, this is complete nonsense. I’ve always known that I would never kill my child, no matter his diagnosis, ability, size, or location. And I am so grateful, for our sake and the sake of our son, that my husband and I did not take the advice of those who suggested we abort Bosco. There is nothing compassionate about purposefully killing a child with a disability now so as to avoid dealing with his death later.
So please, do not use examples of life-limiting or fatal fetal diagnoses, like that of my son Bosco, to justify killing unborn children. It is hurtful to those in the disability community and to parents of differently-abled children. It is disgusting to use a child’s disability as a reason to justify abortion.
Deirdre Cooper is a Public Policy Analyst for Texas Alliance for Life. She and her husband Kody have nine children, including Bosco.