After three attempts, Paula Span and her husband have a healthy 14-month-old daughter, but Span underwent two difficult abortions first.
Both parents were carriers of Tay-Sachs disease, which afflicts children from birth and leads to a painful death in the first years of life. Each pregnancy carried a 25 percent chance that the baby would be born with Tay-Sachs.
"We had incredibly bad luck all along the way. Not only were we both carriers, but we had two defective fetuses in a row," said Span, 33, a writer from Montclair, N.J.
"To terminate a pregnancy that you want, to abort a baby that you are longing to give birth to is a very sorrowful thing . . . the aftereffects of a mid-trimester abortion of a wanted pregnancy are very grim. We were both depressed for quite a while. There's a lot of heartache. I don't know that we would have had the courage to become pregnant again if we didn't have a way of determining ahead of time whether the baby would be healthy."
"The day that we learned from the genetic's unit at Johns Hopkins that the baby was all right, I went up there with a bottle of champagne and some cake, and we celebrated with all the people who had been through this long process with us. It was the greatest joy."
Span is grateful that legal abortion was available. "A woman who's carrying a child that's going to die could be very desperate . . . . I think I would have done almost anything to have the abortion, legal or not."