My sister lived in the U.S. for about two years and during this time, she got pregnant. My family and I were very excited because it was her first baby and my second nephew or niece. Despite her distance from our native Chile, we were happy because our family was about to become larger. During her pregnancy’s first trimester we received news that changed our initial excitement and happiness into worry and concern. An ultrasound exam showed a bright spot in the baby’s heart known as Echogenic intracardiac focus (EIF). It was like a bucket of ice-cold water had been splashed on our faces.
The doctors told her that the baby was twice as likely to be born with Down syndrome, and the only way to know for sure was to perform a test that carried a serious risk of miscarriage. My sister did not want her first baby exposed to this kind of risk. Therefore, she did not take the test.
None of this shocked us as much as the fact that the doctor was surprised by my sister’s decision not to take the test or to have an abortion. He asked her every single time she went to doctor’s appointments if she considered the option of having an abortion because the risk of a baby being born with Down syndrome was so high.
Part of the reason we, as Chileans, were so shocked is because my country is only 1 of 6 countries in the whole world that protects every human being’s life from conception to natural death and therefore, abortion is against the law in Chile. Maybe our shock came from the fact that we encounter abortion at a conceptual level, but when it encountered us through the personal reality of my sister’s doctor, it really shook us up.
Many years have passed since this episode, and I am still completely confident that my sister made the right choice by choosing life for the following 6 reasons:
1) Conception is the beginning of life. In this moment, a human being is created unique and unrepeatable with a different DNA than their parents. In this moment of conception, a continuous development begins that will not stop until death.
2) Every human being is a person. People that promote abortion in the world say that the unborn human being is not a person. I am convinced that this distinction is wrong, not just because there is no rational argument to hold it up, but also because it has been proven wrong by the history of humanity: slavery or the persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi regime started because some people stated that others were humans but not persons, or less than human.
3) Nobody has the right to kill an innocent person. Neither the doctor nor even my sister has the right to decide whether my niece should have lived or been killed. Why should they? Nobody has the right to kill an innocent person, and, who could be more innocent than someone that hasn’t done anything except exist?
4) Abortion is murder. The definition of murder is the crime of deliberately killing a person, and this is now happening across the world, but disguised under the figure of abortion. People who try to justify abortion often use language that distorts the true nature of abortion such as “interruption of pregnancy.” I prefer to call things by their real name: abortion = murder.
5) Life does not depend on circumstance. Many people try to justify abortion because of the circumstances in which some people find themselves, such as detection of Down syndrome or when the baby results out of a rape. I am convinced that human dignity and the right to life cannot be violated, and that no one can justify an abortion. Under no circumstances should human dignity ever be violated, nor the life of an unborn taken, even if under another violation of someone’s dignity, such as rape.
6) People make mistakes. The Nazi regime was wrong about their conception of the personhood of the Jewish people and the consequences of that were devastating. So too my sister’s doctor, who repeatedly insisted that she should “interrupt her pregnancy,” was wrong about the dignity of the human person. With or without Down syndrome, everyone deserves to live.
This experience made me realize the dangers of abortion both on a theoretical level and on a personal level because today I have a beautiful niece that makes me smile every single time I see her.
My niece (pictured) did not have Down syndrome or any kind of disability. She is an able, young girl.
By Fernando Vial, a WYA member from Chile and an Advocacy Fellow at the WYA International office