Abortion, and the line between life and death.

Yesterday afternoon I watched a documentary called “After Tiller” on Netflix. Dr. George Tiller was an abortion doctor in Wichita, Kansas who was murdered.

In the wake of his 2009 death, the documentary follows a handful of his colleagues, whose clinics conduct third trimester abortions.

And I liked it.

But I got angry during it, about the “pro-life” protesters who burned down an abortion doctor’s barn, which killed 20+ of the horses in it. And I got sad during it, about the reasons people can justify the decision to euthanize a baby, such as “I can’t afford daycare for it.”

The doctors in the film conduct abortions as late in a pregnancy as 28 weeks (and beyond 28 weeks, on a case by case basis), which requires actual labor and delivery.

It is a planned stillbirth.

Some of the parents opt for it because of what they can’t afford, like the one who couldn’t afford daycare. She also didn’t want to drop out of college. Another was 16 and Catholic and sad — so sad that the clinic’s social worker could not support the doctor’s decision to euthanize the baby.

I think the social worker thought what I thought: that the teen’s decision was not an effort to protect the baby from a hard life but to punish herself for making bad choices.

Other parents opt for this as a result of the prognosis of a child’s diagnosis. He or she is going to die. He or she is going to suffer. Their parents have a difficult time agreeing to allow a new life to persist if pain will be a big part of it.

“I don’t want the child to suffer.”

A lot of camps clash here. One says it’s selfish to let a baby out of a womb alive if you know it’s going to suffer. One calls it selfish not to.

And I just stared at the TV, sad.

I’m not a mom. I don’t know if I’ll ever be. But my heart hurts when I think about the line between life and death.

My heart hurts when I think about the procedure some parents consent to that determines whether the baby that a woman carried will be alive or dead at birth.

And I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine deciding not to introduce myself to my child. I can’t imagine, if I know that my child will die, not maybe getting to hold it until it does.

I liked the documentary because of what it reminds me of — life’s sanctity and dignity, the meaning in suffering, the responsibility we are given to protect and respect life from conception until natural death.

And it lights a fire in me about a dream of mine.

A dream of a culture in which we so have modeled and instilled values and virtues and skills that kids become adults who make choices that align with love and life long before their own kids are conceived.

A culture in which we so choose love and life that when parents face the worst, they don’t have to suffer alone.

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  • Yes! Thank you for putting a positive twist on After Tiller. It made me so, so, sad to watch it – to see how people deal with suffering without the hope of the cross. But it lights a fire like you said too. Here’s to building that culture!

  • AnneMarie Miller

    Nicely put! I think something that may help this culture is if we spread the idea that good can come out of pain and suffering, and that we must join in solidarity to help people through their hard times. Because many of society’s horrors seem to be a skewed response to suffering: occasionally people choose abortion because they don’t want their child to live in the suffering and pain they have; other people choose euthanasia because of the physical suffering they’re going through, etc.