SMITH: Compassion requires medical community to offer perinatal hospice

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States can ensure that parents receive compassionate options that don’t present them with the false choice of “abortion or nothing.”

Today, only three states — Arizona, Kansas and Minnesota — require that parents receive information about perinatal hospice in the context of informed consent before abortion. Oklahoma is seriously considering a perinatal hospice bill in 2014.

Such legislation should not be controversial. If the pro-choice mantra that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” contains even the slimmest amount of sincerity, legislation requiring physicians to provide information on perinatal hospice should find bipartisan support.

After all, studies demonstrate that offering perinatal hospice options would indeed make later-term abortions more rare.

One recent review of the medical literature details four studies demonstrating that when given the option, a significant number of couples (between 37 percent and 87 percent in the studies analyzed) receiving a life-limiting diagnosis declined abortion and opted instead for “palliative care” (or perinatal hospice) and to continue the pregnancy.

No easy answers exist for grieving parents making plans to meet a child who may die shortly after birth. Legislation cannot change diagnoses. However, legislation can ensure that parents are not pressured into a decision that categorizes their child as expendable.

Such legislation recognizes the humanity of the child and supports the parents who are grappling with this heartbreaking event.

Parents deserve better than the “abortion or nothing” option. Parents deserve to know that, in the midst of their helplessness and inability to control their circumstances, options exist allowing them to take control and affirm the life of their child.

Mailee Smith is staff counsel with Americans United for Life and wrote this article with the permission and participation of Aaron Cobb.

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