Thought for the Day
8th November 1995
My wife had a terrible ordeal during the birth of our first child. The midwife was wonderful and well equipped with an array of high-tech facilities.
But as I constantly watched the heartbeat monitor, I felt an intimate connection with my unborn child. At times, the monitor faltered and my heart panicked. I became acutely aware of the Hindu analogy - how life hangs like a drop of rain-water on a leaf.
Remembering those hours, I felt pain for the two families whose suffering was reported yesterday over the mix-up of their specimen test results. One family, on being informed that their baby would be severely affected with Downs’ Syndrome, aborted what was later discovered to be a perfectly healthy baby.
I am never comfortable with abortion. I do recognise that, in this case, the two families had not chosen that route because of mere convenience - the eradication of an unwanted child. However, the emotions suffered by both families confirm my conviction - that parenthood begins during pregnancy.
This conclusion stems from my experiences of many families, including our own, who have lost a baby through miscarriage or during birth. The emotional attachments for that yet unknown tiny person are real. I don’t accept the views echoed recently by Polly Toynbee when she accused those who shy away from abortion of sentimental ignorance. “Don’t they realise that it is just a potential child?” she said.
But , who knows when the so-called potential child becomes a person with its own rights to life, love and opportunity? As a society, we are so cautious about pronouncing the moment when life ends. How is it we are so whimsical about identifying when life begins in the womb?
I prefer the approach of the Hindu scriptures, which explain that the foetus develops only because of the presence of the spirit soul within the embryo from the time of conception - an individual soul who has arrived from some previous life, but who must be nurtured for a new future .
Hinduism thus prescribes a variety of activities to assist a pregnant mother being peaceful in mind and joyous in spirit. She should have no worry or negative thought to transmit to the child within - only the promise of her love and care.
There’s no easy answer in deciding to cope with a child with Downs’ Syndrome. But, I suspect that those who take on such a sacrifice discover a special love that is denied to others. And the Hindu scriptures say that the unconditional love of a mother for her dependent child provides a glimpse of the quality of God’s love for us.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.