Editor’s Note: Chiara Fricano, of Cathedral High School in Hamilton, Ont., finished first in the 2019-2020 Fr. Ted Essay Scholarship. This is her winning essay.
“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish,” as society is reminded by St. Mother Teresa. How does one measure wealth? How does one measure worth? How does one add up the pros and cons? When one discusses life and death, who merits the power to decide, or is this beyond our scope as humans? Widely considered a crime across the globe in the past, yet legalized in Canada in 1969, abortion is a highly controversial moral and political matter.
Pro-choice groups argue that the mother has the right to decide the actions taken on her body, whereas pro-life groups advocate for everybody’s right to live, including the unborn child in the womb. This moral issue, debated for decades, continues to be a pressing topic in the media. In the 2018 film, written and directed by Christel Gibson, Her Only Choice,a newly expectant mother faces her personal decision regarding the life of her baby while battling a uniquely challenging pregnancy situation. Although some individuals may argue that this film depicts the clearest circumstance where a mother deserves to choose the ending to her story, it offers a different mindset, namely that her baby has a right to live even against the advice of medical professionals, familial support, and personal health.
As a teenager, Tasha already knew her dream of “a house full of children, “yet this fantasy was crushed when she discovered her infertility. After seven years of failed pregnancy attempts, Tasha and her husband, Bernie, learned the heart-warming news of their expected child at an annual check-up. Unfortunately, this news was coupled with the discovery of a mass found on her left breast during a mammogram that further testing proved malignant. The doctor immediately recommended that Tasha end the fetus’ life and begin chemotherapy treatments to save her own, invoking opposite responses from the couple. Bernie admitted that if they needed to choose between Tasha and the baby, his wife’s life was his main concern, whereas Tasha had already decided on a different outcome. Some may say that Tasha is part of a pro-choice argument when she exclaims, “my body, my choice” or “this is my life, mine.” However, she is battling for her baby, choosing the life inside of her womb rather than her own. These convictions instantly create tension and create a rift between Tasha and Bernie. Tasha must fight for her own life, as well as that of her child without the support of her husband. Bernie has even refused to attend her first sonogram appointment. Tasha is already faced with multiple reasons to consider ending her baby’s life to save her own and simplify her upcoming fight against cancer, yet she never wavers in her decision.
According to a survey of abortion patients in 1987, women stated several factors that contributed to their decision to follow-through with their abortion plans. Although some may argue that these statistics could be considered outdated, women today are still faced with the same obstacles that may warrant advice from friends, family, or even doctors to terminate their pregnancy. As noted in the above survey, three quarters of women admitted to choosing an abortion because the pregnancy would interfere with their work, schooling, and responsibilities; two-thirds of the women feared their lack of financial capabilities to support the child; and half of the expectant mothers did not want to raise their child alone due to an unstable relationship. Tasha’s complicated pregnancy situation would interfere with her health, becoming a costly endeavor as she received medical advice from multiple professionals, as well as cancer treatment, but a main concern would be surviving her extra difficult pregnancy without support from her husband.
In addition, Tasha lost the approval of her father, Melvin, when she first announced her decision to continue her pregnancy rather than save her own life. Tasha’s father raised her alone after her mother’s death following a hard-fought battle against breast cancer, and now the same mutated gene and disease was discovered in his only child. Her father warns, “I’ve seen what this disease can do firsthand, and baby, I don’t wish that on you . . . you really need to think about the possibility of this child growing up without you.” Not only does he fear for his daughter and her baby’s health, but also the child’s emotional well-being of possibly having to grow up without a mother’s guidance. Even before his wife’s cancer diagnosis, Melvin was an involved father who constantly recorded moments he deemed special, hoping to capture everything important on film to later be viewed again. For example, at Tasha’s 30th birthday party, all the guests gathered to watch the tape of Tasha’s birth video. As well, although Bernie didn’t attend Tasha’s first sonogram appointment, Melvin arrived with his camera, finally showing his daughter that he supported whatever decision she made and would stand by her side. Later in the film as Tasha struggled with her fears of raising her child and facing this frightening pregnancy alone, she found strength from the past actions of her father and she decided to record a video for her future child where she said, “I want you to know that whatever happens, I chose you. You are loved and I will always, always be here with you!” proving her commitment to sacrifice herself to provide her baby a chance to live. This video would have been made so that if she passed, her baby would know that it was loved and wanted. These are similar words that one would tell an adopted child. Pro-life advocates often offer scared mothers in these difficult situations, who may choose abortion, the option of giving their child up for adoption rather than ending the baby’s life. Often, adopted children may wonder why their birth parents didn’t want them, leading to a constant question as to why they were undesirable. These children are reminded that they were given up providing them a better life, and they were chosen by their adoptive parents, therefore, deeming them special. Tasha wanted her baby to know that he or she was of great value. Every human life is without measure; in fact, experiences and love make someone rich. Although Tasha did fear her child growing up without a mother like herself, she recognized the blessing of her child, even during this stressful time in her life, telling her father, “I want to have our baby. Whatever time I have left on this Earth, I would rather spend having a baby to love than without one. Daddy, this is a miracle; this baby is a gift from God!”
Not only did Tasha begin this journey without her husband’s support or her father’s approval, but multiple doctors also recommended the termination of her pregnancy. Tasha even attended a support group for women battling breast cancer where she was shamed for not choosing to fight the cancer that grew inside of her. The mediator asked, “can you tell me why it is so important that you would risk your own life for this baby?” Tasha asked if the woman had any children of her own and if she would “risk (her) life in order to protect them” or “die to save them.” The mediator replied with a firm “of course.” Tasha, recognizing her child’s equal right to life as a human being, not just a fetus, answered, “even though my child is still inside of me, I feel that exact same way.” In society, the main debate concerning the ethics regarding abortion begins with the question as to when a fetus is considered a human child, the reason why abortion clinics will limit the timeframes acceptable to perform this procedure. According to our Catholic faith and scientific studies, human life begins at the moment of conception. Even though the single-celled embryo does not resemble a human child, it deserves the same rights and the opportunity to live. No sane being would ever save the life of an adult over that of an innocent child full of potential, yet given Tasha’s cancer, her child’s life was undervalued. One woman at the therapy group told Tasha to “adopt a baby” instead because the child in her womb was not worth her life. However, when Tasha visits another doctor in an ongoing attempt to find support to continue her pregnancy, she finally finds hope for her situation. Dr. Lopez agrees with the previous advice given, stating that “it’s normal practice to suggest termination in the first trimester when there’s cancer present” given that “hormones that your body’s producing during your pregnancy will only cause the tumor to grow and possibly spread.” Unfortunately, Tasha is reluctant to begin chemo until after her pregnancy, remembering how it “sucked the life out of her mother” and doesn’t think it is possible for her baby to survive. When the doctor suggests an immediate left breast mastectomy followed by small doses of chemo that wouldn’t hurt her child but would give her the opportunity to survive to raise her baby, Tasha’s sole concern is for her baby’s safety during the surgery rather than her own beauty or the pain associated with this procedure. Nonetheless, Tasha finds the courage to begin treatment while continuing to prioritize her baby. Her husband, Bernie, is relieved to hear of this new plan, as well. Although Tasha was unsure about the available options to take care of her health so she could grow a healthy child in her womb and survive to raise her baby, she never wavered in her steadfast love for her child, consistently choosing her baby’s life over her own, even against the advice of medical professionals.
The film, Her Only Choice, studies the sensitive material regarding pregnancy and the abortion issue as the main character upholds her fight for her daughter’s unborn life despite risking her marriage, her father’s approval, and her own life when diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. Her doctors and family recommend aborting her child to save her own life, but Tasha’s unconditional love for and the integral value of the desired child in her womb makes her choice easy. She never considers ending the baby’s life, recognizing the miracle involved in its conception and thanking God for this gift, given her past pregnancy struggles. This film promotes the Catholic values linked to human life, ending with the birth of Tasha’s healthy baby and the remission from her cancer. It is imperative that in our darkest hour we maintain our hope, trust in God and place the highest value on life.