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Experiences with Young Life
By Mark Shepard, On Life and Liberty Column Series in the Bennington Banner

January 8, 2002

On Christmas Eve, our family was blessed with the birth of our third son, Zachary. Like our second son Caleb, Zachary was born in a tub at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC). What an incredible Christmas this was. Not only were we blessed with another child, but the service and hospitality of the staff at SVMC were, I am sure, second to none. All three of our boys were born at SVMC and each time we experienced exceptional care. On Christmas Day, Isaac, Caleb and I loaded the gifts from under the tree, along with the five reindeer stockings, into three trashcans we generally use for storage containers. We put them into our minivan and headed for a Christmas celebration at the hospital with mom and Zachary.

Once in the hospital, Isaac wheeled one of the cans, I wheeled the other two, followed closely by Caleb pushing his new big yellow Tonka dump truck. Down the hall, up the elevator, into the Women's and Children's ward and Surprise mama!!!

Birth is a culmination and a beginning. It culminates months of curiosity over whether the baby is a boy or girl and what he or she will look like. In addition, months of natural concerns about the baby's health and survival disappear when the baby is born and passes the initial tests.

Having started our venture into parenthood with two miscarriages, the first at five weeks and the second at twelve weeks, we greatly appreciate modern medical technology. What a privilege to live in an era when we can monitor our children's growth within the safety of their mother's womb. We saw the second child's heart beat at five weeks. About twelve weeks after our third conception, my wife (Rebecca) started bleeding and we were confronted with the possibility of losing our third child. An ultrasound not only confirmed a good heartbeat, but it showed Isaac's 2-1/2 inch body with his little legs churning as though he was riding a bicycle. Although we were much relieved to see things were progressing well, we never let our hearts go until Isaac was born. Since then, he certainly has captured our hearts, as have the next two.

At the start of this pregnancy, we were concerned the baby might contract Fifth disease, which Caleb and I had contracted during a family vacation last spring. If contracted by a pre-born baby, there are methods of intervention (either a blood transfusion through the umbilical cord or early delivery) to avert possible heart failure. Thus, this pregnancy was closely monitored during the early months.

Modern technology, which makes it possible to monitor early growth and intervene when needed, has greatly aided our understanding of life in its early stages and saved the lives of countless babies and mothers. In addition, the observance of human life at such early stages has radically altered the argument for abortion-on-demand. Abortion-on-demand advocates have essentially abandoned the viability and stages-of-life arguments. Now the debate centers on the value of life. Value is assessed by anticipating the quality of life the child might expect or the financial or lifestyle impact on the parents or society. Once we accept an argument for terminating innocent human life, who controls the criteria used for determining who is worthy or not worthy of life? What cost or burden justifies terminating human life?

By contrast, others respond more like Dr. Bernard Nathenson, who, in the 1970s, was at the forefront of the abortion-on-demand fight and claims responsibility for over 60,000 abortions. Following the invention of the ultrasound, Dr. Nathenson, a cofounder of National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), witnessed an unborn child's struggle for life during an abortion. This marked the beginning of his journey from being a leading advocate for abortion-on-demand to being a leading advocate for life. Roe (Norma McCorvey) of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion-on-demand, has made a similar switch.

While the technology available today brings enormous benefit, it also obligates us to be responsible for information we did not have in 1973.

Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard
Bennington, Vermont

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