How do we tell the truth about the deaths of Jennifer Morbelli and her baby girl, Madison, without risking more pain to her husband and family? That’s been my internal dilemma all week since the news of her death made the rounds. (Not the major media, mind you. They don’t seem to want to breathe a word of this abortion fiasco.) No one wants to add insult to injury here.
This is the understandable caution you can feel in every reporting of her death, and it silences the obvious truth: neither one of them should be dead today. That is the point. But the decision to kill little Madison also resulted in the death of her mother. It didn’t have to be this way. That is the evil of abortion. It kills. It does not bring freedom or opportunity or solutions to problems or show compassion. It just kills.
(Jennifer Morbelli died February 7, 2013, after having a late-term abortion at 33 weeks, committed by Leroy Carhart.)
A pronouncement of “fetal abnormalities” is received as the final, authoritative word, and immediate death is given as the best option — the “right choice.” There is no room for life, or possibilities, or love or faith or God. So many moms and dads receive such news every day regarding their babies in the womb, and in their shock, their sadness, their fear, they are steered down the road that leads only to death.
With doom and gloom being handed them as a certainty, they are persuaded that the compassionate thing to do is to choose to play God themselves, and decide their child’s fate now.
We know it happens every day, all over. Vulnerable parents have hope snatched away, and unbearable suffering promised instead. Nightmarish visions of handicapped children replace the happy daydreams, and terrible imaginings take over.
Sometimes the fatal outcome predicted is indeed correct. Nobody is guaranteed a perfectly healthy child.
Yet it seems three very important things are never taken into consideration: 1. Doctors and tests are often wrong. 2. Parents are often much stronger than they think they are. 3. God. God may want to surprise you in ways you can’t predict right now. He certainly gives grace to handle whatever He asks of you. And a 4th thing as well: What you feared most may not be as horrible as you thought it would be. Go back to #3.
The bottom line is, though, that even if the worst news is true, killing the child in the womb is never the answer, never the compassionate choice, never the right choice, never the best option. Babies are not property we can dispose of when they are deemed damaged beyond repair, or just beyond our comfort level. Babies are not things we can order up when we want them, and reject the “defective” ones. Nobody is entitled to only the baby they envision in their daydreams.
But in a society where babies are now commodities and killing the child in the womb is considered a good thing for women — a “right” that must be protected and expanded and publicly-funded — we believe we are entitled to receive only what we want, and entitled to reject anything we don’t want. Even our own children.
We are convinced that anything less than perfect health equals an unacceptable “quality of life”, and that “compassion” demands we prevent such imperfection from ever seeing the light of day. Some people might say that’s a terribly flippant way of characterizing it, but is it? Babies are “terminated” every day for far less than severe brain abnormalities. In fact, some are exterminated simply for being girls.
When we take unto ourselves the power and the authority to decide life and death, then the life we deem less than quality, less than ideal, less than everything we hoped, too full of uncertainty is now expendable with near impunity because it’s the “best option for everyone.” We forget that we are so very often, wrong.
We forget that God is God. We forget that life is a gift. We forget that suffering is not the end of the world. We forget that love is stronger than death.
I can’t fathom the grief and the burden that T.J. Morbelli and Jennifer’s family will carry for the rest of their lives. It is high time we all learned the lesson and put an end to the killing. It did not have to be this way for this family. It’s heartbreaking that Madison’s parents chose death for her and did not allow her to be born. It’s heartbreaking that that choice cost Jennifer her life as well. It’s an intolerable tragedy because it never should have happened. It was not a freak accident that no one could have prevented.
It was a choice. The “choice” that is supposed to be so necessary for women’s equality and freedom… what a sham. It is never necessary to kill the child in the womb. Furthermore, it is a deadly con to say that such late-term abortions must be kept legal for the sake of women’s health. Jennifer Morbelli is dead. I’d say that was hardly necessary for her health.
How long are we going to keep protecting human butchers like Leroy Carhart? How long are we going to justify the barbarism that goes on in his so-called clinic? (A clinic, by the way, that the state of Maryland didn’t even see fit to inspect before granting his license the day before Morbelli died. Way to go, Maryland.) He is no friend or champion of women and their health.
The truth is that late-term abortions are extremely risky to the mother’s life, a fact Carhart seems to be both well aware of and intent on hiding, given his written instructions to his patients NOT to go to the ER if they need medical attention after the abortion. How convenient for him; protective of his profits and the whitewashed version of abortion he wants the nation to see.
Surely childbirth would have preserved Jennifer’s life. It would have given Madison’s parents the chance to hold her, to kiss her and shower her with their love, even if her life was quickly ended by disease. Is not the memory of love given and life shared far better than just cold death? As Karen Santorum said to me so eloquently, “You never lose with love.” And she knows of what she speaks.
She and her husband, Rick Santorum, lost their son, Gabriel, when the in-utero surgery to save his life (which was successful, by the way) sadly resulted in a uterine infection that caused his premature delivery, and after a few hours, their beautiful boy died in their arms.
Doctors and hospitals across the country need to start providing perinatal hospice to parents like the Morbelli’s. Genuine care and compassion demand that life be respected and cherished and protected, not slaughtered the way Madison and her mother were. You won’t find a family who chose life, who was given the gift of perinatal hospice who said in the end, “We wish we’d just aborted our child.” You never lose with love.
No one will ever know now what Madison’s life would have been except God. All we know now is that a baby girl was murdered in the womb by a reckless, greedy butcher, her mother died as a result, and her father now lives with the unspeakable grief of losing his wife along with their child. It’s the tragedy that abortion brings.
Nothing good comes from choosing death over life. (We also know that thus far, no one in our legal system has the courage to hold Leroy Carhart accountable for the carnage he profits from. No, instead he is hailed as a hero by abortion proponents.)
It’s a tragedy that should never have happened. It should never happen again.
I love the story from Mark’s gospel (5:25-34) of the woman who’d endured years of suffering from bleeding. She was a social pariah and no one even dared get near her for fear of becoming unclean themselves. Though she was shunned and outcast, she was brave enough to push her way through the crowd hoping to touch Jesus’ cloak.
In her shame perhaps she didn’t dare hope to see His face, to meet His gaze, or touch His hand – that was too much to expect. Still, she believed that just the touch of His cloak as he passed by would be enough to save her. And immediately she received the healing she sought. But the best part is what Jesus does next.
Yes, He healed her body and stopped her bleeding, but now He was determined to restore her. He would not allow her to slink away unnoticed, and continue in her shame. When she had summoned the courage to admit it was she who touched Him, He did what probably no one had done in years – He looked at her and spoke to her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
He acknowledged her as a person, a woman, and a daughter of God. “…be freed from your suffering.” Her bleeding had already stopped, so it wasn’t her physical suffering He was speaking of. He knew so well that though she was physically cured, if she did not receive the healing in her spirit, she would never be whole.
He was telling her to be free from her shame and embarrassment and feelings of worthlessness and to no longer hide in the shadows. He was telling her to hold her head up again, and remember that her faith had brought her healing, and Jesus Himself had restored her dignity and worth. He looked into her eyes and affirmed her in love. Now she could truly “go in peace.”
I am, at times, rather like this woman in one important way. My heart is often burdened with shame, and it can be very difficult to “go in peace.” Sometimes I get so discouraged with myself and my lousy sinful behavior that I’d like to slink away and hide somewhere. After going around the same mulberry bush with the same sin for the ten-billionth time, I’d rather beat myself up with a stick than believe that Jesus forgives me and wants me to be free from shame.
Healthy shame has its rightful place and purpose, certainly. In fact, I’d say that our world could stand a whole lot more of it sometimes! But twisting our shame into something destructive is a favorite device of the enemy.
Shame can and should bring me to my knees at the Cross. It is right that I should be ashamed of my sin and feel heartbroken at the pain I have caused His Sacred Heart. But my shame should never go any further than the foot of the Cross, for His heart is full of only one thing for me: love. Endless, merciful love.
I am right to go to Jesus in sorrow and ask for forgiveness, but if I rise from the foot of His cross and carry the shame away with me again, I have not received His mercy at all. In fact I have insulted the love He gives me. Am I the one person in all of history for whom His sacrifice wasn’t enough? Is His blood not sufficient to cover my offenses? How arrogant! This is the trick of Satan regarding our shame.
Jesus looks at me and says, “I have forgiven you. Go in peace.” But the liar whispers, “You should be ashamed of yourself… You can’t really be forgiven for that. He might love you a little, but He still remembers what you did. You don’t deserve peace.” That proprietor of the pit snickers with glee each time a child of God walks away with a heart still burdened with shame, refusing to be freed. In believing the lie and clinging to shame, I declare Jesus a fraud and the cross a hoax.
A beloved priest once told me something I’ll always remember. After a wonderful yet intense time of confession and talking with him, he said, “From now on, this past sin is no longer your tormentor, but your teacher. You have been forgiven and God remembers it no more. You will remember, of course, but now it is to be your teacher, to help you grow in love and mercy for others.”
Is it hard to believe in the miraculous forgiveness Jesus offers us? It isn’t about you – how good or bad you are. It’s only about Him, and how perfect He is, and the lengths to which He has gone to prove how much He loves you. We are all undeserving, but we are not cast out to live as wretched, unwanted, nameless, faceless things.
Do not believe the lie of hell. Believe Jesus. Just believe it, and go in peace. Make it a forever trade – your shame for His mercy. You are not the dust beneath His feet, but the lost-and-found lamb in His arms.
Remember with a solemn heart the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Take your sins and your guilt and shame and leave them there in the bloodstained dirt. Then remember with gratitude that He has done this for you! What a high price He has paid for you! Who pays such a high price for something of no value or worth? Who would die for something insignificant? Who would do all that He has done for someone who meant nothing?
The wonderful truth is He has hung a price tag around your neck that says you are worth more than every ounce of gold this world has ever seen. You are in fact, priceless, because He is priceless and He sees Himself in you.
This is the only way we can ever love each other as well. We must see the price Jesus has paid for our brothers and sisters and even our enemies, and disregard the price tag placed on them by the world. Radical, huh? We are His own… and we are beloved. We are cleansed by His blood, restored to dignity by His grace, and He bids us go in peace.