Ashley Herzog

Jennifer Morbelli’s baby had a name. The baby registry was complete, filled with already-purchased items like the book “I’ll Love You Forever.” The nursery was set up. Jennifer Morbelli’s baby, Madison Leigh, was a wanted child—and only seven weeks shy of birth.

Instead, mother and child both died last week from a botched late-term abortion. After learning that Madison had severe birth defects and a short life expectancy, Jennifer and her husband turned to Leroy Carhart, one of the only doctors in the country who performs third-trimester abortions. On February 7th, Jennifer was rushed to the emergency room. (When hospital staff desperately tried to contact Carhart, he was MIA.) Jennifer apparently died from internal bleeding as a result of the 33-week abortion.

As the story broke online, comments flooded in. Some expressed sympathy and sorrow for Jennifer’s family. Other “pro-life” commenters called her a murderer and said they were glad she was dead. They asked, “How could she? What kind of mother was she?”

My answer: probably one who knew how parents in her position are treated. Many women are met with hostility and shaming when they make the unpopular “choice” to carry disabled children to term.

Back in 2009, a young single woman, Myah Walker, learned that her baby had anencephaly, a fatal anomaly in which only part of the brain develops. Instead of terminating the pregnancy, Myah decided to carry the baby (named Faith Hope) to term, and chronicle her experience on a blog.

The response? An avalanche of hate. Entire blogs were created to slam Myah and her child.

The first thing you’ll gather from reading these blogs is that these people are really, really angry, because—well, I’m not sure why. Because Myah walked the walk when it came to her Christian beliefs and eschewed abortion? The hate brigade weirdly accused her of “bigotry,” ridiculed her for supposedly being date-raped by the child’s father, and e-mailed her lists of suggestions for how she could off her “zombaby,” who lived to be three months old.

How many women receiving a poor prenatal diagnosis could withstand that kind of torment?

Throughout the 2008 campaign and beyond, liberal bloggers and “comedians” hurled abuse at Sarah Palin’s infant son, Trig, who was born with Down’s syndrome. Jeff Stuef of Wonkette celebrated Trig’s third birthday by sneering, “‘Oh, little boy what are you dreaming about’…What’s he dreaming about? Nothing. He’s retarded.”

This is bigotry against the disabled—nothing more, nothing less. The left’s usual political correctness went out the window, and it was okay to toss around the word “retard” like fifth graders on the school bus. They repeatedly claimed Palin earned this treatment by talking openly about her experience raising a special needs child. (Palin was accused over and over again of “using Trig as a pawn,” which I gather meant “not acting ashamed of him.”)

And it’s not just controversial politicians and their children who receive this sort of treatment after deciding to “keep” a special needs child. Ask my friend Cassy Chesser, who gave birth to her son, Wyatt, after receiving a prenatal Down’s syndrome diagnosis.

“Online, it’s mostly the usual... people calling him a retard, saying he'll never have a meaningful life. Stuff like that,” Cassy told me. “The worst is one girl who told me that I was crazy for having him and I should have had an abortion. Another person told me I shouldn't have any more kids because Wyatt would be too much of a burden.”

This is the message drilled into women carrying disabled children. Their pain and fear is already great, as women like Cassy can tell you. Doctors, friends, and family say: terminate it. And if you have a few thousand dollars on hand, doctors like Carhart will do just that—on the eve of the child’s due date, and sometimes at great risk to the mother’s health.

As a commenter on Operation Rescue’s site said of Morbelli, “I knew her…she believed she was doing something selfless.”

I believe she believed that. If we want to stop these gruesome late-term abortions, Americans ought to take a look in the mirror: how do we treat women like Jennifer Morbelli and their babies?


Ashley Herzog

Ashley Herzog can be reached at aebristow85@gmail.com.