Allowing The Tiniest, Briefest Life to Unfold

Times reporter Neela Banerjee found a touching, little-reported trend in the world of having babies: the rise of "perinatal hospices" for babies not expected to live very long after birth. Knowing the story was quite new, the Times put it on the front page. Banerjee noted that while the "anti-abortion" movement is a strong supporter, many of the clinics and troubled parents downplay ideology, and some support "abortion rights." Banerjee explained:

"Most couples choose to have an abortion when they learn that the fetus has a fatal condition. But experts say about 20 to 40 percent of families given such diagnoses opt to carry the pregnancy to term, and an increasing number of them, like the Kilibardas, have turned to programs called perinatal hospice for help with the practical and spiritual questions that arise...Drawing on that philosophy, at least 40 perinatal hospice programs have been started in the United States in the last decade, said Amy Kuebelbeck, an author in St. Paul whose son Gabriel died of a heart condition hours after his birth in 1999 and who has researched the subject."

Banerjee reports from Minnesota, and also speaks to an expert in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, about the programs:

"Some in the anti-abortion movement strongly support perinatal hospices. In Minnesota, a law was passed last year that called for women to be informed about perinatal hospices. But many hospice workers seem free of ideology. They say they hope to give families control over an event that could otherwise crush them. They also say they want to ease the isolation many families face in dealing with profound grief."

When Banerjee reported on how many friends and family members struggle to communicate or stay away from the subject of a doomed baby, she added a line about how some of her subjects are religious supporters of the right to choose abortion:

"Mrs. Newell's father called and urged her to consider an abortion. The Newells say they are uncomfortable with any political meaning that people might read into their decision. They are church-going Roman Catholics, and support abortion rights. Two other families who spoke about their experiences are also religious and supporters of abortion rights."

None of the parents interviewed were explicitly pro-life.