Brisbane Times 12 December 2014
A NSW couple who fought to have their pregnancy terminated at 28 weeks after discovering the foetus had a physical abnormality has revealed the inconsistency and fear surrounding decisions over late-term abortion in NSW, where the procedure remains a criminal act, punishable by ten years jail.
Mother-to-be Cindy was 23 weeks pregnant when the first indication there might be a problem with the foetus emerged. What followed was a two-month long nightmare that started with the couple facing bureaucratic hospital delays that pushed back further scans for two weeks.
They say they are still haunted by the silence that filled the ultrasound room, when, more than six months pregnant, the scan confirmed their fears: their child was suffering from a deformity, one that would cripple its left hand.
Frank told Fairfax Media when the problem, called ‘ectrodactyly‘, or cleft hand, was diagnosed, a week passed before Cindy was told it was she would not be allowed a termination.
“I was really, really depressed,” Cindy said. “I couldn’t think about anything else but the baby, and I felt I had been abandoned.”
Frank and Cindy said they were not told why the termination was not allowed. However, ectrodactyly is not life-threatening and may only affect the hand, and NSW Health guidelines state the prognosis for the foetus should be considered in the case of terminations where an abnormality is present.
But Cindy – who grew up in China and spoke to Fairfax Media with Frank interpreting – felt immensely guilty about giving birth to a child with a disability. She believes she must be to blame for the condition.
“I grew up with many people who were disabled, and… there was discrimination,” she said. “I didn’t want my child to be discriminated against. The problem is… obvious because it is the fingers, and I think the child would have a very hard life.”