Mum of four Harriet Jackson's baby died 14 hours after birth due to a severe birth defect. The Christchurch woman chose not to terminate despite being given the worst case scenario by medical professionals - and she doesn't regret her decision. Jackson wants to illuminate why some mums choose not to terminate their babies, even in dire circumstances. This is in response to the Herald story on a woman who was denied an abortion at 18 weeks pregnant.

This year I buried my daughter Babette who had a severe form of spina bifida. I found out at a 22 week ultrasound scan. I was offered a termination that day, without having to tell my husband and without a second scan or "cool off" period.

At Christchurch's Maternal Foetal Medicine Unit I was not given any information about support organisations. Instead we discussed worst case scenarios and funeral obligations. Weeks later, I met with a hospital social worker. She didn't mention any support groups either.

To end my child's life because she's damaged would go against everything I've ever believed about what makes a person valuable.


At 42 weeks, my daughter arrived after an uncomplicated delivery. Her birth, and the 14 hours we had with her alive, is deeply imprinted on my life, my husband's and children's. Friends have told me that Babette's story has strengthened them.

There are three New Zealand organisations that would have supported me during the hard times. When I called them, they were not surprised I didn't know they existed. They say the hospital has their brochures but obstetricians don't give them out. I know other women, who had less than perfect babies like mine, including a Downs syndrome baby who "would be a burden" if she didn't terminate. All had pressure from obstetricians to terminate, even when they made it clear they weren't going to.

Harriet Jackson with her five children and husband. Photo / Supplied
Harriet Jackson with her five children and husband. Photo / Supplied

Informed consent needs to be a priority in abortion reform talks. In an age of rights for women, social progressives speak with forked tongues when it comes to imperfect babies. Down syndrome, which the World Health Organisation calls a mild disability, is not exempt.

The pressure to abort, and the woman's obligation to do so is very real. Against the overwhelming trend I chose to keep my baby.

Consequently, I am one of those irresponsible women the moral progressives condemn. My choice was not in line with their prevailing philosophy.

The progressives seem to be either ignorant of, or repress, the psychological and spiritual impact of abortion. They are seduced by the philosophy of sentience. For example, philosopher Marcel Zuijderland claims that women have an "ethical duty to abort when the foetus is seriously disabled".

This month is World Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Not everyone is celebrating.

Non-invasive prenatal screening has resulted in a huge reduction in the number of children born with Down syndrome. Iceland has a 100 per cent termination rate. In Denmark it's 98 per cent. The UK is 90 per cent. Other European countries are close behind. Consequently a growing number of bioethicists encourage women to consider their social obligation to act upon an abnormal result.

The irony is either missed or ignored. "Free choice" for women comes with a hefty dose of moral obligation to society if they receive an abnormal ultrasound scan.

"Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice," declares Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and popular proponent of atheism.

Geoffrey Clark, a member of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), has even called for the compulsory abortion of all babies with Down syndrome, spina bifida, and other birth defects or disabilities.

Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University, has called for the legalising of infanticide up to 30 days after birth. He claims this would be the right thing to do because it would increase happiness and decrease pain for the greatest number of people.

Pro-life doctors are all too familiar with the pressure.

Recently, Oxford University published a "consensus statement" signed by a group of prominent bioethicists from around the world advocating that doctors be complicit in an abortion if their patient wanted it, or face the consequences.

Forget the Hippocratic oath. Violate your conscience or be driven out of your career.

If I could love my child so much, even when I was told she was "incompatible with life", how much more hope I see for mothers whose baby has been diagnosed with Downs. The general statistics just don't line up with the personal experiences.

Actress and maker of the documentary, A World Without Down's Syndrome?, Sally Phillips, whose son Olly has Downs, said it beautifully:

"If you could say to somebody, 'you're going to have a child who will magically bring about social cohesion, will bring joy and encourage all the people around him or her not to take life too seriously, who will enjoy simple things in life, who will literally do a dance if there is ice cream in the freezer, who is able to enjoy life', that's a whole new value system, isn't it? That's a whole new way of assessing what is and isn't valuable."

Against the overwhelming trend to abort disabled babies like mine, I will never regret letting my baby have a chance to live. She was a gift to teach us how to love better.

Canterbury District Health Board response

Clinical director of obstetrics & gynaecology Janet Whineray:

We are sorry to hear of Ms Jackson's concerns, as it is our position that no woman is coerced into a termination.

A termination is viewed as an opt-in procedure and involves further discussion with two specialist consultants. Also, a termination beyond 20 weeks gestation involves legal processes around the permanent effect on maternal mental health.

A decision to carry a baby with severe foetal abnormalities to full term is not uncommon and we always offer the option of supportive care with referral to paediatricians and other specialists to discuss post-natal care.

It is our objective that every woman presenting to our facility is treated with care and respect, and we endeavour to support both the woman and the decision she makes.