Prop 115: Like David fighting Goliath

Mary Beth Bonacci

Well, it’s that time again. A national election is weeks away. So I guess it’s time for my quadrennial election column. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much always about the abortion issue.  

This time, I want to focus on one part of that issue specifically — the issue of late-term abortion. I do this because Colorado will be voting on ballot measures to limit these late-term abortions. Currently, we are one of seven states with no limit on what gestational age an abortion can be performed. Proposition 115 bans abortions in Colorado after 22 weeks, unless the life of the mother is in immediate danger. The measure provides penalties for doctors who perform such abortions, but specifies that no charges may be brought against the women who undergo them. 

I thought perhaps it was time to take just a brief look at the issue. 

First of all, let’s understand what we’re talking about. An abortion after 22 weeks is performed using a method called dilation and extraction. Which basically means that the cervix is dilated, and the baby, who weighs anywhere from one pound to full birth weight, is “extracted” from the uterus and destroyed. The way it is performed is disturbing, to say the least. (Consider this my “trigger warning” for the squeamish.) The doctor begins by injecting the baby’s heart, to kill him or her.  This, according to Wikipedia, is done in order to “soften the bones.” In a “non-intact extraction” the doctor then uses forceps to grab, twist, crush and separate the various baby parts, until the uterus is empty. The baby is then re-assembled on a table, to make sure no parts were left behind. In an “intact extraction” the baby is delivered, feet first, until only the head remains inside his or her mother’s body. And then the doctor either crushes the baby’s head, or jams scissors in the back of the skull and suctions the brains out. 

It’s horrifying. And it makes me physically ill to think that we can’t find a more humane way to solve women’s problems, whatever they may be. 

So why does anybody think this gruesome procedure should be, or remain, legal? Let’s look at the arguments against Prop 115, as taken directly from BallotPedia: 

“The measure does not include any exceptions for risks to the woman’s health or for a woman who has been the victim of rape or incest.” 

The health of the mother is obviously the most powerful argument. But let’s think about this. This isn’t a tiny embryo. It is a fetus somewhere between 22 and 36 weeks of development. The earliest premature baby to survive was born at 21 weeks. Leaving aside for the moment the St. Gianna Molla option of a mother sacrificing her life for her child, wouldn’t it be more compassionate to deliver the child alive, and do everything possible to try to save both lives? As for rape or incest, I oppose those abortions at any stage. But would even an abortion supporter find a need to allow them after a woman has already been pregnant for five to nine months? 

“The choice to end a pregnancy is often a serious and difficult decision, and should be left solely up to the woman, in consultation with her doctor and in accordance with her beliefs.” 

In what other area of law or life do we allow one person to take the life of another “in accordance with her beliefs?” 

“In addition, it provides no exceptions for the detection of a serious fetal abnormality after 22 weeks, which may force women to carry a nonviable pregnancy to term.” 

This is a baby currently alive but expected to die later. So, no. We don’t slice babies up, or suck their brains out, because they have short life expectancy. I understand that it is a tremendous sacrifice for a woman to carry a baby not expected to survive long after birth. But those babies have been known to surprise even the professionals. And, whether they live hours or days or weeks or months, they are created in the image and likeness of God, loved by Him, and destined for eternal life on His timetable, not ours. When we prematurely end their lives, we make ourselves gods, and we override God’s plan for the unfolding of that child’s life, no matter how brief. 

“After 21 weeks only 1.2% of abortion procedures are initiated.” 

And that comes to over 8000 incidents per year in the U.S. Saying this brutality “only” happens 8000 times per year is hardly a ringing endorsement. 

Particularly sad to me is the obscene amount of money that has been thrown at keeping these obscene procedures legal. According to BallotPedia, “The campaign supporting [Prop 115] had raised $257,398 in contributions. Opponents of the initiative had raised $5.3 million.” A vast majority of that money has come from the various Planned Parenthood organizations. 

We are David, fighting Goliath. 

I want to make it clear that I join the Church in opposing abortion at any stage, in any way it’s performed. To quote Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Every abortion stops a human heartbeat. So many women I know and love have had abortions. Some I know about, some I only surmise. In the cases I know about, they have suffered greatly in the aftermath. I just don’t think we solve women’s problems by taking their money, invading their bodies, killing their babies and sending them home. 

We can do better for women, and for their children. 

I know this is a complicated, messy, difficult election on so many levels. But I’m asking you — imploring you — to keep the unborn in mind as you cast your votes.  

And vote yes on Prop 115. 

COMING UP: Lessons on proper elder care after my mother’s death

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We buried my Mom last month. 

In the summer of last year, I first drove her to her new memory care facility. My heart was breaking. She was so scared and vulnerable but was trying so hard to be brave. My brother said it was like taking your kid to pre-school for the first time. And never going back to pick her up. 

But we had to do it. She was far too confused for our 97-year-old Dad to take care of her. She didn’t recognize him. She would lock herself in her room, afraid of the “strange man” in their apartment. She wasn’t eating well, and with COVID restrictions we couldn’t get into her independent living facility to monitor her diet or her health. Worst of all, she would wander. Unable to recognize “home” and unable to convince anybody to come get her, she would set off by herself. Dad would realize she was missing and frantically try to find her. Fortunately for us, she always attempted her escapes when the night security guard was at his desk. But we were terrified that some evening she would get out while he was away, and she would roam out into the winter night. 

We knew that, without round the clock support, we couldn’t keep her safe in any of our homes either. So, we concluded that she needed to be placed in a secure memory care facility. I think it was one of the hardest decisions my family has ever faced. We researched. We consulted experts. We hired a placement agency. We came close to placing her in one home, then chickened out because we felt like the owner was pressuring us.  

Finally, we landed on what looked like the best facility for our needs. They specialized in memory care, and we were assured that the staff had been trained to care for people with dementia. They took notes about her diet, health, likes and dislikes. Most important, it was a secured facility. They knew that Mom wandered, and their secured doors and round the clock caregiver oversight seemed like the best way to keep her safe. It was the most expensive facility we had seen. But we figured her safety and well-being were worth it. 

On Jan. 12, Mom was found in that facility’s back yard. Frozen to death.  

She had let herself out through an unsecured exterior door, unnoticed and unimpeded, on a cold winter evening. No one realized she was missing until the next morning.  A health department investigator told me that she had been out there at least 12 hours. Which means caregivers over three shifts failed to recognize her absence. I’m told she was wearing thin pants, a short-sleeved shirt and socks. The overnight low was 20 degrees. 

We are devastated. Beyond devastated. Frankly, I don’t know that it has completely sunk in yet. I think the brain only lets in a little horror at a time. I re-read what I just wrote, and think “Wow, that would be a really horrible thing to happen to a loved one.” 

I debated what my first column after Mom’s death would look like. I have felt compelled, in social media, to celebrate the person my Mom was and the way she lived. To keep the memory alive of the truly amazing person she was. But I think I did it mostly to distract my mind from the horror of how she died. 

But I am feeling more compelled, in this moment, to tell the story of how she died. Because I think it needs to be told. Because others are struggling with the agonizing decision to place a parent in memory care. Because when we were doing our research, we would have wanted to know that these kind of things happen. 

I am not naming the facility here. It will be public knowledge when the Colorado Department of Health and Environment report is completed. From what I am told, they are horrified at what happened and are working very hard to make sure it never happens again.

My point here is much bigger. I am discovering the enormous problems we face in senior care, particularly in the era of COVID. I was told by someone in the industry that, since the facilities are locked down and families can’t get in to check on their loved ones, standards are slipping in many places. With no oversight, caregivers and managers are getting lazy. I was in regular communication with Mom’s house manager, and I raised flags every time I suspected a problem. But you can only ascertain so much in phone conversations with a dementia patient. 

Now, since her death, we have discovered that her nightly 2 a.m. bed check — a state mandated protocol — had only been done once in the ten days before her death. She could have disappeared on any of those nights, and no one would have realized it. 

I have wracked my brain, to figure out what we could have done differently. The facility had no previous infractions. Their reputation was stellar. Their people seemed very caring. Their web site would make you want to move in yourself. 

Knowing what I know now, I would have asked some very specific questions. How are the doors secured? Are they alarmed? Is the back yard accessible at night? Are bed checks actually done every night? Who checks the logs to confirm? 

I would check for infractions at the CDPHE web site. Then I would find out who owns the facility, and do some online stalking. Is this a person with a history of caring for the elderly, or just someone who has jumped into the very trendy, very profitable business of elder care? I am very concerned that, for many, this “business model” is built on maximizing profits by minimizing compensation for front line workers — the people actually caring for our loved ones. 

Dad is living with me now. We are not inclined to trust any facilities with his care. Watching him grieve has been heartbreaking. If you talk to him, do me a favor and don’t mention how she died. It’s hard enough to say good-bye to his wife of nearly 60 years, without having to grapple with this, too. 

I am, frankly, still in disbelief. I don’t know exactly where I am going from here. But I do know one thing. I want my Mom’s death to spur a closer look at the way we care for our vulnerable elderly. 

Because I don’t want what happened to my Mom to happen to another vulnerable elderly person again. Ever.