What Makes a Life Valuable?

There is an article at Catholic Link that intends to be a warm, pro-life story, but gets it all wrong. They Decided to Carry a Terminally Ill Baby Full Term So That Her Life Could Save Many
tells the story of Royce and Keri Young, who received a devastating diagnosis at Keri’s twenty-week ultrasound: the baby girl they were expecting had anencephaly, that is, part of her brain was not developing. This meant that she is expected to survive no more than a day or so after birth. I can’t imagine how painful this news would be and my intention in writing today is not to judge them personally, but to look at the issues raised by the article.

Royce is quoted:

You can be the most pro-life person in the world, but until you sit there and you… you hear those words and you look at your future going forward, that’s when you have got to face the reality and make your own decision.”

It is true that each of us is faced with choices all the time and in our pro-choice society, the decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy is made hundreds of times a day. And it is also true that people who are pro-life are tempted to do things they would never imagine when they are faced with a crisis. They are human like anyone else. What I take issue with in this article is the underlying assumption that they would have had the right and would have been justified to end their baby’s life. They are portrayed as heroic for continuing the pregnancy.

In the video that is linked to the article, Royce states that in his mind, the baby died when he heard the diagnosis. His reaction, I think, is not unusual; it is a defence mechanism. But the baby is very much alive. Her life will apparently be a short one, but it is the life God has given her. It should be honored and respected, no matter how brief. Like all of us, its value is inherent: she is created in the image and likeness of God.

“They decided to carry a terminally ill baby full term so that her life could save many,” suggests that she would have been disposable but for the fact that she could be mined for her organs. I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything pro-life about that. The problem I have is not with the donation, but with linking it to her survival in utero. Her value does not come from the sum of her body parts, no matter how many lives are saved.

This little girl, whom her parents have named Eva, is every bit as worthy of her life as any other child. As I said above, I am not judging the parents. They may well love their child unconditionally and that is just not adequately conveyed in the article. And certainly they are grieving and can be excused for coping as best they can. My complaint, if you will, is with a Catholic publication – generally very good, by the way – presenting this as a pro-life story without pointing out the significant flaws in that narrative.

Little Eva is expected to be born by C-section on May 7. Let us pray that her time on earth is filled with love, for her family and for all who are touched by her brief life.

Leave a Reply