A journalist who had an abortion when her unborn son was diagnosed with a severe disability says women in the same situation need professional counselling.
Victoria Lambert’s baby was found to have trisomy 13, a serious condition that would probably have ended his life before he reached adulthood.
In The Sunday Times, Victoria describes the experience of being told about her unborn son’s condition, and the expectation that she would end the pregnancy.
She says: “What no one seems to address is why this test – and the others – exists.
“The orthodoxy may be that it helps to prepare a couple for the possibility that their baby’s future will not be as they envisaged.
“But anyone who has been given a result that differs from the norm knows the expectation is that the pregnancy will be ended.”
Victoria was told it would be easier for her to abort the baby sooner rather than later, and with little information and no counselling she agreed to go through the traumatic procedure.
“What nobody told me,” she says, “then or later, was that not everybody terminates such a pregnancy.”
She adds: “Had I been offered professional counselling at any stage in this chain of events, I’ve no doubt that my experience would have been different. I didn’t know I could ask for it, and I certainly wasn’t recommended any.”
Victoria says she has regretted her decision ever since, but feels unable to say so.
She says: “I have felt out of step with the rest of the world, where the validity of abortion is a given and to admit to being uneasy about it seems to make you a traitor to any notion of ‘sisterhood’.”
When she became pregnant again some years later, Victoria was determined this time not to have the tests: “There would be no termination. And therefore no need for testing. Simple.
“My blood samples were thrown away, and an entry confirming our decision was made on my case notes.
“I made my peace with my unborn baby: I would take what I was given.”
She continues: “It dawned on me that once we had decided not to go ahead with tests for Down’s or anything else, I had stopped worrying about how our child would turn out.
“She was going to be our baby, and as long as she was born alive, everything else could be dealt with.”
Last month, it was announced that a safer and more efficient method of testing for disability had been found, leading to speculation that the number of disabled children aborted would increase.
Victoria warns: “Bigger and better antenatal testing may thrill research scientists and be of enormous importance to those parents who are clear in their minds about the kinds of baby they want to bring into the world.
“For some of us, though, there is a grave danger that the very ease and simplicity of the tests make life-and-death decisions too easy to take – and to regret.”