Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Heartbreaking Post

From Scott Martens, one of the smartest bloggers out there, about a tragic end to a much-wanted pregnancy. I've put the rest below the fold because I'm a bit ambivalent about linking to this post in the first place, and I may be compounding/justifying my error in judgment in commenting more fully.

The reason I've linked to Scott's post, which is in some respects intensely private, is that in the midst of his grief he has articulated something very wise:
Historical progress, events that virtually everyone agrees were progressive, have given men power over events that once had power over them. A bad harvest need no longer mean starvation. Diseases that once killed masses completely arbitrarily are now easily controlled and treated. But no primitive man, subject to the whims of the elements, ever found himself powerless in the face of an economic recession, or concerned about the outbreak of a rare disease on the other side of the world, or afraid of terrorists flying airplanes into buildings.

Progress is eternally incomplete and eternally insufficient. A progressive poltical project is, by its very nature, non-utopian. It is these things because progress always creates new events beyond the power of men.

But the dialectics of progress go still further. The power of men over events does not exclude the prospect that the very same events may have power over the very same men. At the same time as they are most potent, men can equally be just as powerless.
In this case, progress gave Scott and Kiera the power to know that their child had a chromosomal defect (Trisomy 18) that would mean their child's early death, but progress didn't mean that they could solve the problem in any way that would give them a life with that child. Scott again:
We had no power to make this a healthy pregnancy. We only had the power to know, and the power to end it. And the knowlege that not knowing and not terminating would only have been worse is cold, cold comfort indeed. The dialectic of men and events is not a simple matter of one having power over the other, and no revoltution, no new technology, no amount of progress will ever change that.
This gray area of limited control, limited knowledge, is indeed what "progressives" try to understand--and, I would hope, one of the goals of progressive politics is to comfort, or at the very least, not to condemn, people who find themselves limited by such circumstances.

Scott is also smart enough to know that by blogging about this decision to abort the fetus, he might be subject to anti-abortionist attacks:
There are people who think that what we did was murder. That God wanted us to have a terrible miscarriage, or a severely deformed and handicapped child. That somehow it was righter to let her suffer. Fuck them. They don't understand. They couldn't. What we did was the greatest demonstration of our love that we could offer our wanted, sought after, beloved daughter.

There isn't the slightest, the tiniest hesitation in my mind that we did the right thing.
What an awful decision to face, and what minimal consolation scientific understanding must be. I would write that I agree with Scott's decision, but, when I think about it, it doesn't matter and it wouldn't console any bit of Scott's grief to tack on what I think. Coralia June Martens was loved, anticipated, and wanted; her parents made a decision in what they judged to be her best interests, even as it broke their hearts.


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