A Tale of Two Babies

colson2Two little girls have recently been in the public eye—little girls who, by modern standards, could not be more different. One of these children was so wanted by her parents that they jumped through nearly every hoop to conceive her, including years of health-endangering infertility treatments, in vitro fertilization, and finally surrogacy. (Peggy Orenstein, the child’s mother, tells the story in her new book, Waiting for Daisy.) The other child was so unwanted that her mother, Jennifer Raper, is filing a “wrongful birth” suit against the doctor who botched her abortion and another doctor who failed to discern that she was still pregnant afterwards. Two little girls, nothing in common—that’s how our society would perceive these children. But our society would be wrong, because both of these stories have the same focus: the adults. It’s all about their “rights” to get what they want, or, as the case may be, not to get what they don’t want. That’s what these two cases have in common: The baby who should be at the center of the story becomes a thing to which a price tag is attached. Peggy Orenstein herself tackles that fact with rare and searing honesty. She looks back on her rocky path to parenthood with ambivalence, acknowledging that the effort threatened her health and nearly destroyed her marriage. In an essay adapted from her book, she writes, “You don’t notice your motivation distorting, how conception rather than parenthood becomes the goal, how invested you become in its ‘achievement.’” Despite her joy over her daughter’s eventual birth, Orenstein also felt so guilt-ridden that for the first time in more than twenty years, she found herself at the Jewish temple on the Day of Atonement. There she prayed for what she calls “the strength to forgive myself for the sins against my marriage and my own heart that I’d committed . . . [the] betrayal of my deepest self.” At least Orenstein’s daughter, unlike Jennifer Raper’s daughter, will not have to go through life with the knowledge that her mother believed she had no right to be here. But what else can we expect when we have trained people to believe that the most important thing about a baby is whether or not it is wanted? The Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey infamously stated, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence.” Tragically, what this means is that our “concepts of existence”—our desires and needs and wishes and beliefs—now define our children’s lives. We have our rights—so-called—but what happened to theirs? Orenstein, however hesitantly, believed she had the right to have a child at any cost. Raper believed that she had the right not to have a child if she did not want one. Both children, different as their situations are, demonstrate the reality in our culture today: the tragic reality that children have become mere commodities to meet our needs, or, if they don’t meet our needs, things to be discarded. Now more than ever, Christians need to proclaim—and live out—the truth that children are indeed good. And they are good not because they meet our needs, but because they bear the image of God and propagate the human race. That’s our God-given task: Be fruitful and multiply.  
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For Further Reading and Information
Jonathan Saltzman, “Woman’s Suit Says Birth Was Wrongful,” Chicago Tribune, 11 March 2007. “Boston Woman Files ‘Wrongful Birth’ Lawsuit,” WBZ TV, 7 March 2007. Peggy Orenstein, “The Ticking Point,” Peggy Orenstein blog, February 2007. (From Waiting for Daisy.) Also see this excerpt. Anne Glusker, “Misconceptions,” review of Waiting for Daisy, Washington Post, 11 March 2007, BW05. Alexandra Jacobs, “Hope Springs Maternal,” New York Times, 18 March 2007. BreakPoint Commentary No. 060316, “‘Wrongful Birth’: When a Baby’s Life Becomes a Threat.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 060418, “Be Fruitful and Multiply: Christians and the ‘Birth Dearth’.” Charles Colson and Nigel Cameron, eds., Human Dignity in the Biotech Century (InterVarsity, 2004).


Chuck Colson


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