Emily Barbero lives in Minneapolis.
In 2012, while expecting our first (and only) child, my husband and I went in for a routine ultrasound. The technician saw something and alerted the resident perinatologist, who alerted the genetics team. We quickly wiped the gel from my belly, and they escorted us down the hall. In the rush, the black-and-white photos of our baby were left on the printer. Someone probably threw them away long ago.
After reviewing our file, the genetics counselor explained to us that they couldn’t quite know what was wrong for sure without further testing, but that our son’s brain showed clear anatomical issues. She said that some children with our son’s condition never walk or talk. They sometimes have cognitive, social and emotional delays. Their quality of life can suffer, and they can be a considerable drain on the emotional and financial health of families.
She hesitated, but then posed the question: Did we want to keep our baby?
My husband and I simply had to glance at each other. We each knew what the other was thinking. We weren’t going to terminate.
We didn’t say yes to our son because any political party said that it was the decision that differentiates those with good morals from those with bad ones. We made our decision holding hands, with a prayer on our lips, oceans of love in our hearts, a spark of hope and a lot of naivete. It was our personal decision to make, not any sort of political or religious agenda to be had.
Our son turns 4 this month.
He has developmental delays and a complex health history, but he is happy and thriving. He is also a true success story for early-intervention services. Without his weekly occupational, physical and language appointments, without his surgeons, gastroenterologists, developmental specialists and neurologists, he would not be where he is today.
But what about tomorrow? Currently, because of the Affordable Care Act, insurers cannot discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. They can’t deny coverage, they can’t limit coverage, and they can’t charge exorbitant premiums to those with significant health problems.
So right now, my son’s insurance coverage is secure. But in their drive to repeal the ACA, Republicans in Congress are conjuring up a different world — one where one little gap, like the job my husband lost several years ago, can result in bankruptcy and in the rapid decline of health in a loved one, even death.
The Republican Party prides itself on being a pro-life party and has delivered a pro-life president into office. During campaign season, we heard messaging about the value of life and our collective responsibility to protect it. The GOP wants everyone to know that no matter what the ultrasound says, they should choose life.
We did. And now, sleeping in our house tonight is a beautiful boy with dimples, a boy who loves Lego Ninjago and Batman, a boy who thinks tackling snowmen is hilarious. Just this month, he showed us he can hit a baseball off a tee.
He also happens to be a boy with a preexisting condition and six-inch-thick medical file.
Has our language become empty? Suddenly, Republican members of Congress no longer seem to view him as so precious and beautiful. Now he’s expensive, and a risk, and a liability. The argument that his life should be supported and protected at all costs has fallen eerily silent. The new argument is over which of the ACA’s protections should be preserved, if any, and to what extent, and whether the law should be done away with even before a replacement is worked out.
We gave my son life, despite the warnings, and now he needs care. There are millions like him. But the Republicans in Congress look the other way.
So who is the real pro-life supporter among us?