Ethics: Aborting Your Anencephalic Baby

What would you do Wednesday!

You and your spouse have found out in the last few weeks that the child with whom you are pregnant has been diagnosed with anencephaly, a fatal genetics disorder in which the cerebral cortex of the brain does not develop at all. The skull is somewhat flat and quite deformed looking. Only the brain stem, which controls all the nonvoluntary actions of the body, such as heartbeat, respiration, and digestion develops. The child will be born in a permanent vegetative state and is not likely to live longer than a few months, though some have lived as long as a year. At present the pregnancy is just into the second trimester.

Your physician has recommended ending the pregnancy as soon as possible. Your doctor wants to avoid labor and delivery for you, and there are some additional risks in a natural delivery of an anencephalic child due to the larger shape of the baby’s skull. A cesarean section would not carry those risks, but that is a more invasive way to deliver the baby. You have strong feelings about the morality of abortion when done for nonmedical reasons. You wonder if this child is actually a person, since he or she will be born with only a bran stem and no higher brain. – Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009), 150-51.

Rae lays out this scenario and then goes on to ask a few questions for discussion. Below is one group of those questions to consider.

What decision will you make? If you choose to end the pregnancy, what will you tell your neighbor, who knows how you feel about abortion in general? If you choose to carry the pregnancy to term, what will you tell your doctor, who insists that you are carrying a terminally ill child who will die shortly after birth, and you are subjecting yourself to unnecessary risks and emotional heartache? – Ibid, 151.

How would you answer? Would your answers change if you were giving advice to someone else in this situation?

tagged as , in Culture,morality

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jobe September 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Since the baby is going to die anyway why let him and everybody else suffering by going through with the birthing process?

2 Lola September 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

Am facing this exact situation and wrestling with the tormenting ethics of it, hence my stumbling on this site. If only the situation was as easily settled by a one sentence conclusion as Jobe has done. Dispassionate reasoning is so much easier when you are not the subject of the matter.

3 Mark September 30, 2010 at 10:25 am


I’m very sorry to hear you are facing this situation. This breaks my heart and my prayers are with you. I hope you have a great church family around you right now so they can minister to you. You are so right that we often don’t understand the weight of a situation until we are in the middle of it. I think Jobe’s comment probably portrays the attitude of many who would not think twice about aborting a baby.

My feelings are that if I were in this situation I would go ahead and have the baby. It would be my baby, a part of me, another human being. I may only get to catch a minute of God’s miracle of life, but atleast I would have that. I might even get to hold my baby even if just once. I don’t know all of the complications that could arise, but I believe I’d rather experience the life of my baby, however short, than abort him or her and live with that the rest of my life.

Lola, I know you have a lot to consider. I pray you have godly counsel and the God gives you wisdom, hope and ultimately peace through this situation.

13. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 ESV)

4 Victoria September 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

Hi Lola,
My heart breaks for you in this tragic situation. Sometimes modern technology just adds to our misery as it puts these kinds of choices before us that people never had to face before. I hope you are a believer and that you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior. If you do I think what I have to say may make sense to you.

In life Lola, there are no accidents-God knows everything about us -He knew everything about us and everything that would happen to us before he ever created the universe. Sometimes the real struggle we have with God is why he allows this kind of thing to come into our lives.

I am asking you to get a Bible-if you have one-and read Psalm 139. I am going to quote some of it for you right here. This is Psalm 139:1-18

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;the night is bright as the day,for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.I awake, and I am still with you.

As you carefully read through this passage you can see that God is very present with the happenings in a mother’s womb. Dear Lola, please just let God be God.Let him be the one to decide if your baby will come full term or die after birth or if you may even have a miscarriage. God and God alone understands the anguish in your heart–we can and will pray for you-but God is the one your heart must seek and cry out to -both for wisdom and for comfort.

If you follow the link here to my blog-and you read the post called “The sting of Death” you will see that I do not glibly spit out advice to you. I have been through the furnace of suffering and have found that God is more than enough to see us through.

I am praying for you right now-that you will be able to get an understanding of God and his will in this-he already has you in the palm of his hand, Lola! Sometimes these very things draw us close to the One we need more than life itself.

5 Mary September 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I have friends who went through something like this. They had the baby and were grateful for the short time they had with him. As far as answering the doctor, there will be heartache either way. Make no mistake, there will be heartache like no other with an abortion.

6 Jeff September 30, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Wow, even though I don’t agree with alot of stuff on this site, it has opened my eyes and made me think, which is good.
Now to the issue. I have worked in L&D and I have seen this happen. I saw that by having the baby it help with the healing process and gave closure to both parents, and this is important. They get a birth certificate, did foot prints, took pictures and all of this I think was very important for those involved. I do struggle with the fact that this can be a huge financial burden for some with sub standard insurance, but that should not be the deciding factor. And we must remember that some parents may cope better mentaly than other parents with this process. I think if faced with this I honestly don’t know what I would do.

7 fitness girl January 26, 2011 at 10:14 pm


I just came across this site and while I was reading I couldn’t help myself but felt heartrending in the sense that it is a baby. And babies are very innocent and yet he/ she are now in pain suffering such kind of disorder.
Yes, other people may just say that its better that the baby will aborted for him not to suffer but its not that easy. How about the feelings of the mother, we must still consider the mother, its part of her body.
On the other side, Victoria is right that God knows everything and its up to his will. we will just ask for God’s guidance on what he really plans for us, because if he really wants and thats his plan he will definitely give it.

8 Nelles September 18, 2011 at 3:21 am

I also have stumbled on this website because three weeks ago at 12 weeks pregnant I had a scan and my baby also was diagnosed with anencyphaly. I have decided to go through with the pregnancy despite the specialist trying to convince me that my baby can’t feel and isn’t conscious so I should abort. Thankfully my midwife is supportive of my decision and my wishes that this pregnancy and baby be treated the same as any other. It is definately the harder option at the moment as it would seem so much easier to not have to spend the next six months carrying and feeling a baby inside me that I will have to say goodbye to shortly after birth but I also know that God doesn’t give us anything beyond what we can handle andthat He will bring good out of this situation even though I can’t see any good in it right now! I’m not sure how I will get through the birth and death of my child probably in the same week right now but I am certain that by choosing to allow God to make the choice on when this baby goes to be with Him rtaher than intervening myself,I will be able to look back and know that I did everything I could for my baby rather than carry regret with me for years if I decided to abort.

9 Mel October 9, 2011 at 4:57 am

I think people need to remember that many parents choose abortion because they don’t want their child to suffer. Even if those parents would love to see their baby, some feel it is more compassionate to abort early, when there’s less chance that the baby will feel anything. To them, birth would only add to the trauma.

This is a highly personal decision, where parents do their best when there really is no good option. And I hope that we can all respect that regardless of their decision.

10 Marie August 21, 2012 at 8:56 am

On April 13th 2012 I was really excited to have my first scan for my first baby. The person doing the scan was very quiet, we were so happy to see our babys heart beat,We were then told that baby hadnt formed properly and had anencephaly, they took us to a quiet room which we waited for doctor.Doctor would then tell us that babys with anencephaly would usally be aborted as they have no chance in life if they even get to labour day.I was absouloutly devastated!I couldnt believe what i was hearing I asked if there was any way they could have got it wrong,He said no and that he had just studdied the scan picture.We agreed that abortion was for the best, He had rang another hospital for me to see a consultant which i saw 4 days later and because I couldnt take it much longer with being an emotional wreak I demanded that they get me an appointment asap for abortion.I had to pay for travelling to the private clinic,then put in waiting room full of people calm wanting an abortion.I would never had choosen abortion if I had known my baby could have lived a normal life.It has been one of the worst things I have ever had to go through and its effecting me everyday.Just wish i could talk to someone that has gone through similar,cant talk to family or friends feel like everyone else would rather forget.

11 Zach Nielsen August 21, 2012 at 10:22 am

I would recommend reading this. This family had a similar situation.


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