Jeanne Ives, who narrowly lost the hotly contested race for Republican nominee for governor of Illinois, has lived out her Pro-Life convictions. Ives revealed in a heartfelt 2015 editorial the decision she and her husband made when faced with a difficult choice. When pregnant with their fifth son, Mark, Ives received devastating news. The 20-week ultrasound showed that Mark suffered from a diaphragmatic hernia, a life-limiting condition that is usually fatal at birth. Further testing revealed that Mark’s condition was due to a genetic abnormality, and therefore certainly fatal.
When faced with such a difficult diagnosis, many people view ending the child’s life as merciful because they think ending Life means ending suffering. Through her painful personal story, Ives refutes this view and shows the strength of her Pro-Life convictions to protect Life from conception to natural death. She writes,
Our high-risk pregnancy doctor strongly suggested we abort the baby. In our conversation, the doctor spoke as if that were the obvious, most reasonable option. The thought of aborting Mark entered my mind for a few brief moments. How convenient, no one needs to think about this anymore, no increased medical expenses, no carrying the baby for 20 more weeks, no painful choice on how to respond to cheerful comments about my impending birth. The problem would just go away, and I could get back to caring for our other four boys.
But those moments passed quickly. I knew the decision to end Mark’s life was neither mine nor my husband’s to make. And thankfully my pro-life doctor knew this too. Dr. Michael Hussey took me aside and said we are going to see this baby through to his natural end.
Ives emphasizes that the experience was tremendously difficult, saying she cried daily at the grief and fear of losing her child. Yet, throughout the difficult journey, Ives saw that choosing Life for her son was necessary. Mark was born in April 2002 and lived for 45 minutes after birth. In those precious moments of his brief life, he was baptized, dressed, and cared for with love. As Ives writes, his caregivers “treated him with the dignity he deserved as a human being created in the image and likeness of God.” These unforgettable moments and the compassionate care given to Mark would not be possible if his life had been taken from him violently in an abortion.
While she focuses on her personal experience, Ives points out that her family’s decision is not unique. Mothers and fathers receive difficult diagnoses and choose Life every day. Ives argues this is the only choice of a “just, merciful, and compassionate society.” As she observes, “Not even the laudable goal of ending suffering grants to one person the right to kill another.”
In Texas, Pro-Life legislators have tried for many sessions to pass strong protections for all preborn babies, including those diagnosed with a life-limiting condition in the womb. The Preborn Pain Bill and other Pro-Life measures contain a deadly loophole that allows for the killing of preborn babies who may have a disability at any time during pregnancy. Last session, Pro-Life champions filed protections for these babies as a stand-alone bill, the Disabled Preborn Justice Act.
Unfortunately, as in previous sessions, moderate Republicans killed the bill and voted against life-saving amendments to protect preborn babies who may have a disability. Although weak legislators claimed protections for preborn babies went “too far,” the reality is that anyone who claims to be Pro-Life must support them. The dignity of all human Life, from conception to natural death, means that we cannot take the lives of those who are weak or suffering.
Although Ives narrowly lost to incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner, her campaign showed that true conservative and Pro-Life principles resonated with voters. She will not lead the state of Illinois, but Ives has shown clearly that she is a leader with tremendous potential. Her supporters will hold anti-Life Governor Rauner accountable for his attacks on the most vulnerable. Similarly, Texas politicians are learning that Pro-Life voters are a powerful force. If we hold our own elected officials accountable, Texas may finally pass protections for babies like Mark.