Earlier this year my wife and I discovered we were expecting our third child. We were happy about this. We were hoping to see our family grow, and we were quick to tell the people we love. But we found out things might not be okay with the baby when we went to the first ultrasound scan. This was followed by days of uncertainty about whether our baby was healthy and whether it would survive.
A few weeks later we were sent to a special appointment with the purpose of taking a closer look at the baby’s heart using ultrasound, and moments into this we could sense that something wasn’t right. The usual rhythm of the rapid thumping and swishing that fills the ultrasound room when you hear the baby’s heart was notably absent. All we heard was silence. All we saw was stillness.
Sie Yan gave birth some days after this to a lifeless little boy the size of my palm. I was numb, and later I was overwhelmed with sadness and uncontrollable tears. It was not easy to get my head around the death of a child I didn’t know. But we decided to name him Enoch, after a man who ‘walked with God, and he was not, for God took him’. 
While many miscarriages take place in secrecy, we had been very open with everyone we knew, and the torrent of love and affection we experienced had a healing potency. All of our friends – regardless of religious belief, political persuasion, or personal experience – offered us deep sympathy on the loss of a child. Even a child who passed away at a mere 15 weeks gestation.
Around the same time this was all happening, news broke that the Republic of Ireland was taking a referendum, and then secured a vote, to overturn the Eighth Amendment banning abortion. It was a clear majority of 66%, and public opinion expressed through the media was clearly supportive. There were comments such as, ‘The spell of shame has been broken’, and it was described as ‘the end of shame and guilt’.
To me, this exposed the deepest fault line of incoherence and contradiction in our approach to the unborn. It made no sense to me that people could express genuine sorrow that our child had died, while at the same time there was ecstatic celebration over the potential of many Irish babies being terminated in days to come.
It made no sense to me that if a woman wants her baby, it’s a child, but if she doesn’t then it’s a foetus. If the child dies, it’s a tragic miscarriage, but if the pregnancy is brought to a medically induced end, it’s a routine termination. If a couple is longing to have a family the loss of a child is a grief too hard to bear, but if a child doesn’t fit into their current life plan then ending the child’s life is a human right.
Perhaps the contradiction is never more clear than in the case of the hospital ward. There you can find operating rooms used to perform miraculous procedures in-utero in order to save unborn lives. You can also step into those rooms at other times to observe the disposal of bodies being cut up and vacuumed out, complete with tiny hands and tiny feet. And our reaction to both of these scenarios could not be more different. We give best wishes, prayers, hopes to those fighting to save their babies. We ignore those who are quietly disposing of them; no flowers, cards, sympathies. It was a choice, after all.
But why do we get to decide? Why is it up to us whether this is really a life or not?
I know that for many, the choice over whether to abort is impossibly difficult and is often driven by the utterly terrifying prospect of becoming a parent without the means to provide the kind of life we think a child needs. But that doesn’t change the nature of the question of whether a life is a life.
It’s right to celebrate life and therefore also right to grieve the horror of sickness and death that takes a life, even one as young as our own baby Enoch. And it’s wrong to think that we can make an arbitrary choice that changes the status of that baby into something less than human.
If anything, that makes us less than human.
 Genesis 5.24