Don Gale: Stillbirth, abortion and miscarriage need compassion, not judgment

I’ve seen it all — abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth — sometimes too close to home.

Stillbirth — carrying a fetus to term or near-term — is the most traumatic. No one talks about it. No lawmakers consider legislation to punish anyone for it. No religious organization condemns it. But the mother, the father, and the immediate family suffer intense pain ... and wonder why they are forced to endure such tragedy.

Miscarriage is also emotionally and physically painful for the mother, often traumatic for the father and troubling for family members eagerly anticipating a granddaughter, a grandson, a niece, a nephew. The happy young mother-to-be carries the fetus eight, 12, or more weeks ... and suddenly, unexpectedly, it’s gone.

Most women blame themselves. What did I do that I should not have done? What did I eat that I should not have eaten? Where did I go that I should not have gone?

Again, no legislature passes laws against miscarriage. No church leader stands at the pulpit to condemn miscarriage ... or even to commiserate with the millions who struggle through it.

And yet, miscarriages happen hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of times more often than abortions or still births. One estimate says that half of all women experience miscarriage.

Abortion is also a traumatic experience — before and after — made more traumatic by thoughtless religious leaders who condemn it from the pulpit, by ignorant legislators who promote stupid laws against it and by careless busy-bodies who pass judgment on others while overlooking their own ill-considered trespasses.

The end result for all three events is the same: a developing fetus is aborted.

Self-righteous and falsely labeled “pro-lifers” will say: “Yes, but the women we condemn choose abortion.” True enough. But the women who experience still birth or miscarriage do not have a choice, do they? And most of the women who experience abortion did not choose to become pregnant, did they? In these cases, choice and no choice are different sides of the same coin.

Again, no legislature would consider passing laws to punish nature — or God — for choosing to subject women to unwanted still births, unwanted miscarriages or unwanted pregnancies.

Passing laws against nature is absurd, of course. But so is legally restricting a woman’s right to choose while at the same time calling one’s self compassionate, or Christian, or Muslim, or a believer of any other philosophy committed to human-centered values.

No one likes abortion. But the self-righteous who judge a woman for choosing to remove a lump of cells from her body should shower love, not hate, upon that poor woman — just as they should shower love, not platitudes, upon the poor woman who through miscarriage has a similar lump of cells removed from her body without her choice and without her consent.

If you insist on calling abortion murder, then you must attach similar words to miscarriage and still birth. You can’t have it both ways.

Hate and condemnation are not the tools of a civilized society. They never bring about acceptable results.

We should use tools we know produce positive results — education, love, compassion, and thoughtfulness. Educate young women and young men about all options for avoiding pregnancies they do not want. Love those who choose to terminate pregnancies. Be compassionate toward those who suffer the loss of a developing fetus. Be thoughtful about saying or doing anything that might add to the pain of women and their families who suffer the trauma of stillbirth, miscarriage, or abortion. Replace judgment with understanding,

Don Gale.

Don Gale, a longtime Utah journalist, has commented about hypocrisy for half a century. He thinks laws and sermons about abortion rank suspiciously high among expressions of overstated self-righteousness.