“Time with the baby is extremely important to these moms,” he says. “Families want a live birth, a baptism, a chance to hold the baby; to give as much love a child can have in their brief life.”
There are 74 such hospices across the country (plus two in Canada and four in Europe) listed on www.perinatalhospice.org. But there are only three in Virginia, one in Maryland — Howard County General Hospital — and none in the District.
And these are a drop in the bucket when measured against the 3.3 million babies who are stillborn each year worldwide or the nearly 4 million others who die within a month.
Filling in the gap is a corps of women trying to whittle down the current high rates — estimated at 80 percent — of women who abort at-risk children.
They range from Monica Rafie, a Chicago-area mom of five who in 2001 was told her second child, Celine, would likely die of an underdeveloped right heart ventricle, to Anna Lise “Cubby” LaHood, a Silver Spring woman who learned in the spring of 1988 that her unborn son, Francis, would only live briefly outside the womb.
Both women were encouraged to terminate their pregnancies but refused.
Cubby and husband Dan LaHood decided that while their son may die, it would not be at their hands. Reaction was swift; her family disinherited Mrs. LaHood and refused to see the child. The couple transferred their care to Georgetown University Hospital, a Catholic institution that encouraged her to continue her pregnancy.
“The pressure from the medical community to abort was severe,” she said.
On Oct. 6, 1988, Francis was born with polycystic kidney disease. He was held by his parents, quickly photographed and baptized before he died a few minutes later.
Today, the LaHoods are lay Missionaries of Charity, the group founded by Mother Teresa, whose photos decorate the walls of their Silver Spring home. On a small $100,000 annual budget, they operate St. Joseph’s House, which provides respite and day care for children with severe disabilities.
“People think your life is over when you have a handicapped child,” Mr. LaHood says. “It’s a cultural view to eliminate them as undesirable. They don’t know what the demands are and what the rewards are.”
Elsewhere in the world, “they’re doing abortions over sex choice and eye color, and it’s coming here,” he adds. “If you don’t defend the most vulnerable life, it’s inevitable people will have abortions over preferences.”
Misdiagnoses not uncommon
Celine, now 7, survived a condition known as Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, which means only half of her heart is functioning. She is a lively brunette who enjoys Irish dancing.
Her mother is a Catholic who oversees www.benotafraid.net, a Web site that encourages mothers with dire in-utero diagnoses to keep their children. It gets about 3,500 visitors a month.View Entire Story
Julia Duin is the Times’ religion editor. She has a master’s degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...
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