Jennifer McKenna Morbelli was a 29-year-old, married, expecting mom. She and her husband were excited about their baby girl, who they were going to name Madison Leigh. They'd set up a gift registry. And then, Jennifer got some disappointing news: It appears Madison had some abnormalities. Jennifer and her husband, TJ, made the difficult decision to abort at 33 weeks.
What happened next has ignited the fury of anti-abortion activists: Jennifer died following her abortion. A young mother and her baby are gone. But only a heartless ideologue could get up the next day and protest an abortion clinic after her death. Jennifer's decision to abort was an act of compassion. Even if you don't understand it, you need to respect it. And her death doesn't mean we should ban late-term abortions. It means we need to make them safer and more accessible.
Very few doctors are willing to perform late-term abortions -- not so much because of personal ethics, but because it's complicated and because they don't want to take on the rabid protesters. Dr. LeRoy Carhart is one of the brave few who will perform a late-term abortion, but he and Jennifer had to travel and meet at a clinic (he from Nebraska and she from New York to a clinic in Maryland).
We know very few details about what happened. We don't know what kinds of abnormalities the baby had, how severe they were, why they were discovered at such a late date, and whether Jennifer's on health was at risk. We don't know what happened with Jennifer's surgery, except that it was a multi-day procedure. Allegedly she died from excessive bleeding from a ruptured uterus. We won't get results from her autopsy for another month or so.
What if Jennifer had been able to get an abortion at a hospital, with access to the highest-quality care possible? I suspect it wasn't the abortion that killed her -- it was the lack of adequate care and support.
The protesters who are screaming on the sidelines need to listen to Jennifer's mother-in-law, Kathy Morbelli. She says she's horribly disappointed in the protesters' insensitive response to this young woman's death, and emphasizes that this was a wanted baby. I think only extreme circumstances would have driven Jennifer to seek a late-term abortion. It might have been her own life she was trying to save. She may have been trying to save a child pain and suffering. Who are we to judge?
What do you think Jennifer's grieving family needs most right now?
Image via Dame Catoe/Flickr