A shocking (but inspiring) story from Andrew Bolt

I am afraid this story moved me to tears. A wonderful woman versus callous doctors. I am so glad her good heart was triumphantly rewarded. She should sue the pants off the doctor principally concerned

Two brave women reminded me this week of what we lose in this terrible cult of the perfect child. Brave? Loving is the better word. For what great deeds we can do when we love. A Melbourne woman, let's call her Mary, this week wrote to me after reading in my book of the abortion of a girl just two months from birth. The girl had been diagnosed - it seems perhaps wrongly - with dwarfism.

Something about that case reminded Mary of her own pregnancy. For legal reasons I won't say just what, or give her real name or that of the doctor involved. Mary writes that in 1994 she fell pregnant, and was so sick that she had an ultrasound at 10 weeks to find out what was wrong. It was only then she learned she was carrying twins. But the second baby was very small. "This meant the baby was likely to have gross abnormalities because although it's normal for twins to differ in size late in pregnancy and after birth, in early pregnancy they should be exactly the same size to be normal.

"The doctor immediately recommended that I should `terminate that fetus'. "You mean kill the baby?' I replied, at which he got a bit upset with me and asked me not to use such language!" The doctor preferred the term "selective reduction".

As Mary learned: "One or more babies in the womb are injected in the head with saline, which kills them, and they are then left dead in the womb until the healthy baby or babies are delivered. "This is sometimes done because of abnormalities, but is also routinely done for mothers who simply don't want twins, triplets or quads. "How parents of healthy babies choose which will live and which will die, and how a mother lies on a table while a saline needle is inserted in her stomach to kill one of her babies is beyond me, but apparently this is normal.

"My main memory of all of this is the doctor's incredible nonchalance. "He was not only blase about what he proposed to do, he was even eager to do it - and he was quite forthright about his belief that any baby with even a suspicion of abnormality, or indeed any baby the parents simply did not want, should be dispatched forthwith. "He was keen to perform this procedure on me as soon as possible, without any further testing of any kind. "I even remember him reminding me that I was not being fair to my other larger twin if I did not allow him to kill the smaller one. This was because I was already at risk of premature birth."

Mary says she's sure the doctor thought he was being professional and he was right to tell her her options. "I'm university educated and am a pretty strong woman with a good marriage - so together, my husband and I found the strength (although it wasn't easy at the time in an emotional state) to resist the doctor's recommendations and stall for time... "How do single women, or women intimidated by the medical profession, or emotionally fragile women, or women with poor family support resist the eagerness that some in the medical profession have to solve what they simply see as a `problem'?"

Mary and her husband, after much agonising, agreed to an amniocentesis test to check that the smaller twin really was deformed. "I still remember lying on the table waiting to have this test, arguing with the doctor as he stood over me, huge needle in hand, as he tried to convince me to have the amnio test done on both babies rather than just one - `because you may as well now that you're here'. "This from a man who knew that the risk of miscarriage after an amniocentesis is about 1 per cent for a single pregnancy and up to 5 per cent for twins. He still wanted to double the risk - to ensure that we didn't bring any handicapped babies into the world. "We managed to resist this pressure and only had the amnio on the smaller baby, although I will regret until the day I die even agreeing to this, as I nearly miscarried the following day."

Mary concludes: "I have a result sheet issued by the doctor from my 10-week ultrasound on which are written the words, `fetus 2 not viable'. "I like to compare this document with the child it refers to - now an 11-year-old, funny, sensitive, gifted, football-playing, blues-guitar-addicted, satin-skinned and perfect little boy, our son." She has sent me a photo of him in Port Douglas kissing a cane toad held by his grinning brother.

"It turned out that the only explanation there was for the boys' different sizes early in pregnancy was that they must have been conceived a week or two apart . . . "I was not told that this could be a possible explanation until well after I was meant to have made a decision to inject my son Paul in the head with saline." How many other women have been told - wrongly - they were carrying a damaged baby and have given in to urgings to have their healthy child killed?

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