Cases Involving Defects in the Unborn

"A child - no matter how deformed, deaf, blind, its insides out, everything wrong with it - is still a gift from God for which this world and the Church does give thanks. And if you are so blessed by that kind of a child, that child will teach you humility. That child will teach you what it is like to wash the feet of another; that child will teach you mercy and compassion! Call it a vegetable... What does it do for the world? What use is that life? What can it contribute to society?... It makes us a merciful society, brothers and sisters, a compassionate society. That's what it does for us. Without people like that, we become proud and self-satisfied. We become what the Nazis hoped to become creating a 'perfect' society where deformation is hidden away, or done away with, and only perfect people are allowed. Then whose feet do I wash? Where are the weak among us? Be bold for life, brothers and sisters, in ALL circumstances! Even when it's difficult. The Church NEVER, under any circumstances, says that abortion is right."

-Bishop Basil ESSEY of the Antiochian Orthodox Church of America

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Conversation with Elder Epiphanios in Greece

One faithful couple once went to Elder Epiphanios (Theodoropoulos), asking his advice. Their problem was that the wife was taking strong medicines for a certain illness of hers and during the period of the therapy, she had become pregnant. The doctor urged her to have an abortion, because the child would undoubtedly be born deformed or handicapped. The Elder told them:

“And why did you come to me? To give you permission to kill it? Do you have other children?”

“Yes,” they answered. “We have a little boy.”

“Is he healthy?” asked the Elder.

“Yes” they answered.

“If, God forbid, your child suffers a stroke or some car hits him and he ends up a vegetable, will you throw him away or will you kill him?”

“Of course not!”

“Then why do you want to kill the conceived child? Because you have not yet seen it or because you don't love it? That does not matter. That is also your child! Listen: Science is not infallible. The doctors, many times, make mistakes. And above doctors is the Creator: God. In Him have trust. I believe that it will not be born handicapped, as the doctors say. But even if something like this happens, glorify God and consider that this is your cross, which you must bear unmurmuringly and he will give credit to your account in heaven. And when you go there you will tell Him: Lord, because of the words of Your lips, we kept harsh ways (Psalm 16:4). Do not wish to avoid this cross, because some other one even heavier will await you. Have courage. Pray to our Lord. I will also pray and I believe that your little child will be born healthy. Go with the Lord's blessing.”

Truly after a few months, a charming and very healthy little girl was born. With tears, the parents announced it to the Elder, saying: “We thank you for your support and your prayers. The Lord God lives!”

Counsels for Life: From the Life and Teachings of Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

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Statement of the Church of Greece 
From the Synod Committee for Special Issues in the Church

The Assigned Synod Committee for special Church issues in the Church of Greece states that the termination of the pregnancy of a medically impaired embryo in order to avoid the pain of the child and the pain in the family and the pain of society, is not in agreement with the Orthodox Theology. From the time of conception and according to the teachings of the Orthodox Church, the embryo is considered an existence consisting of soul and body which are inseparable and consist of an prosopon.* Despite the pain that a disabled child can cause, it still is an image of God and was created by God and partakes of all good that God has given man. Abortion is disrespectful to the human prosopon and to the value of dignity towards life . The termination of a pregnancy based upon the reasoning that the medially impaired child will create pain and discomfort in the immediate family is not in agreement with the Christian ethics and Church ethics since the basic virtue of Christianity is unconditional love. The Orthodox Church realizes its responsibility in providing guidance to its flock, and without disregarding the eschatological purpose of the Church, the Church needs to be present and active in society to help alleviate human pain.

*Prosopon - image made in the image of God (confirm best English definition of this word)

source: translated from Greek from 

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Gianna Jessen, Saline Abortion Survivor with Cerebral Palsy 

My name is Gianna Jessen. I have cerebral palsy. My biological mother was 17 years old and seven and one-half months pregnant when she made the decision to have a saline abortion. I am the person she aborted. I lived instead of died.

I would not have cerebral palsy had I not survived all of this [being burned alive in the womb by a saline abortion]. So when I hear the appalling, disgusting argument that we should have abortions because the child just might be disabled.. Oh, the horror that fills my heart!

Ladies and gentlemen, there are things that you will only be able to learn by the weakest among us. And when you snuff them out, YOU are the one that loses. The Lord looks after them, but YOU are the one that will suffer forever. And what arrogance! What absolute arrogance! And it has been an argument for so long in this human place that we live, that the stronger should dominate the weaker, should determine who lives or dies. The arrogance of that! Don't you realize that you cannot make your own heart beat? Don't you realize that the power that you think you possess, you really possess none of it? It is the mercy of God that sustains you... even when you hate Him. 

They said “Gianna will never be anything.” but [my foster mother] decided to ignore them, and she worked with me three times a day, and I began to hold up my head. And they said “well Gianna will never this, and never that”; well, long story shorter, I was walking by the age of three and a half with a walker and leg braces, and I stand up here today with a mild little limp, and without a walker and leg braces. I fall gracefully sometimes, and very ungracefully at other times, depending on the situation, but I consider it all for the glory of God. 

You see, ladies and gentlemen, I am weaker than most of you, but this is my sermon. And what a small price to pay to be able to blaze through the world as I do and offer hope. And I think in our misunderstanding of the way things work, we misunderstand how beautiful suffering can be. I don't willingly sign up for it, but when it comes we forget. We forget that GOD is in control and God has a way of making the most miserable thing beautiful. 

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Τhe Story of an Abortion that Never Happened 
by Irina Roxana Ionescu

I was 11 weeks pregnant when I realized that I was pregnant. Because I suffered from manic depressive disorder before the pregnancy I was prescribed two very potent medications (Fluanxol and Carbamazepina). I did not want to have a child with the man that I had interacted with since this interaction was a product of my manic depressive disorder during which was in despair. 

I was under great pressure. My doctor told me to have an abortion taking into consideration the medications that I was taking and my psychological situation. The decision of an abortion scared me because this would mean that I would be the murderer of my own child, removing the child's right to exist as a human being and the right to live. But I knew the medications that I was taking could impair the child and the child could be born handicapped. 

I struggled with my internal fears and my negative feelings but decided to leave myself to the mercy and forgiveness of Christ and the Panagia. I prayed to the Panagia unceasingly and entreated Her to spare the child and that my sins do not become a burden on the child and for the child to be born healthy. 

I finally delivered on January 2004. The doctor who had tried to convince me not to move forward with the birth announced to my parents that they had a healthy granddaughter who weighed about 8 lbs.

I saw my daughter Ioanna the next day and I thought I was dreaming. I used my freedom of keeping the child and I respected the freedom of a human being to exist even though no one and no law can protect an unborn child besides the moral law of God Who breathed this law into every person through His provision. 

Magazine Lumea Credinitei Nov 2008 

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Holy Matrona of Russia

Holy Matrona was born in 1881 in Sebino Russia. Her parents Demetrios and Natalia had four children. When the fourth child Matrona was going to be born her mother was at an older age and very poor. Because the parents were very very poor the mother had decided to have the child and give it to someone else to raise. To have an abortion was not even considered. So they decided to give the child to a government funded orphanage. Natalia however had a dream and saw a white bird that same and sat on her right hand but the bird had no eyes. The pious Natalia knew that this was a message from God and that the child that was going to be born was a vessel chosen for the Grace of God to dwell in. So Natalia decided not to give the child to the orphanage. Indeed the child was born and was a little girl and she was blind. The mother, Natalia, loved Matrona very much.

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Testimony from an Orthodox Priest in Greece 

My name is Antonis Parharidis and I am a priest through the mercy of God. I serve through the mercy of God the Church, the Orthodox Church of Saint Phanourios in Drama, Greece. This Church, the Lord entrusted to me. My wife Sotiria and I were found worthy by our merciful Christ to have two children, Christos (6 years) and Panayiota (10 years). Doing obedience to God’s Will we wanted to have another child.

On December of 2006 we visited our obstetrician and were informed that all the tests and ultrasonic results showed that the pregnancy was progressing well. At the end of January 2007 things changed. The new doctor assigned to us diagnosed that the pregnancy would have complications and the chances of having a safe gestation were none. The doctor looked at my wife and said:” Sotiria, because of your age, 40 years old, you are in the high risk age group for complications. We will send your blood sample to Pireus to a genetics lab. But if the results come back under 150 units then this will not be good news. According to my opinion you should abort the embryo. You still have time” Twenty days later we received a phone call from the doctor that the tests came back low—125 units. We had already decided to keep the child before the blood tests. The doctor then said to us :” you still have time” meaning that we had time to move forward and do an abortion.

End of February of 2007 and we knew that we would have complications. At the same time we had faith in the merciful God and His sweet Mother our Panayia. The hope was within us and we knew that even though we are unworthy and sinners, Christ, the Panayia and the Saints would listen to our prayers.

After consulting our spiritual father and asking for his prayers we prayed that all would be as God willed. After 9 months of agony and hope to God, the Panayia and the Saints of our Church we had a healthy boy weighing 3.6kgs (about 7 lbs). I thank my holy Geronda who is also the Bishop of the area, the holy monastery in the area of Grivas for all their prayers, and Saints Raphael, Nikolaos and Eirini who we prayed to. This event clearly reassured us and confirmed that faith saves the faithful and the followers of the Holy Commandments , and that God is above all and can change everything and make things that seem impossible to man , possible with God. We believe that God, Who was , is and will be always eternal and Who governs the universe, all creation and our lives, revealed to us His love. We trusted Him with our lives and our hopes and we remained faithful to Him and never doubted Him. Our relationship with God should be all of the above—Faith, Trust and Assurance that He governs everything. Our relationship with God is ongoing and enriched by the intercessory prayers of our Saints and their miracles.

Translated from:

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An Orthodox Priest in Russia Answers Questions on Abortion
An interview with an Fr. Igor Fomin, rector of the church of St. Alexander Nevsky at Moscow State Institute

What is posted here is only a portion of the article titled "Answers to Complicated Questions: An Interview with Priest Igor Fomin".  More of this interview is posted on our website on the page titled: "Working for the Pro-Life Cause."

Interviewer:--Batushka, pregnant women are told in popular “medical-educational” magazines, in the Internet and in counseling that “care” for the conceived infant includes special tests: prenatal diagnostics, which actually direct women to abortions. And all this is supported by government programs. Some women yield to such propaganda and begin to test their baby for incurable abnormalities from the first weeks.

Fr. Igor:--You know, I really liked what one doctor said--Father Alexy Grachev; he was a neonatologist. He said that the life of the infant up to six months after birth has not been researched thoroughly. What is going on in his body today, what will be there tomorrow? We can only observe, we can make statements, but no one can understand this in all its depth. On the topic of tests to find out what is going on with the development of the fetus in the mother's womb--it is all the more impossible to foretell, it is impossible to predict everything. Through His mercy, the Lord changes, one could say, everything.

Of course, this will sound mysterious in the ears of those outside the Church or unbelievers, or those who believe in some god of their own, but in Christianity, in the Orthodox Church we always hope in God. And if the Lord, having led you up to some dangerous point, sees your spiritual disposition, your spiritual attitude, if He hears your prayer with a request to somehow fix the given situation, then He will lead you away from it; I am 100% sure that the Lord will lead you away from danger. Sometimes these dangers are necessary for a person to somehow to collect himself, to concentrate. For us, God is a Father. As people, as parents of children, we are ready to do everything for our children. Absolutely everything. Could our Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, not do everything? He will do everything, only believe Him, only come to Him. The Lord awaits this from every person.

Interviewer:--What can be told to those pregnant women, outside the Church, who think that it is better to save a sick unborn infant from future suffering by doing an abortion? If they have been told from results of prenatal diagnostics that abnormalities are suspected in the infant?

Fr. Igor:--Every person that is born is still a gift of God. Every person that comes into the world, whom the Lord revealed to this world, is necessary to and needed by the mother. Even the one that was not born into the world, but died himself in the womb of the mother--he was conceived, which means that he received life and a portion in the Kingdom of Heaven; he remains both a member of the family line and a witness of your love or lack of love. And without love to her own infant, regardless of whether he is healthy or sick, a mother cannot inherit the Heavenly Kingdom.

But if a conceived infant with suspected abnormalities is alive and continues to grow and develop, notice that this is also not without purpose. It is not without purpose if a child is born who especially needs your help and your care, who will not fly away from the parental nest when he grow up, who will remain with you until the end of the days. Either your days or his days. I mean children with congenital defects whom it is common to give to orphanages or other places. A parent who raises such children while enduring multitudes of difficulties has, one could say, already opened to himself the Gates of Heaven.

Interviewer:--They say in the media that if an unborn infant has abnormalities, it is better for him not to be born than to end up in our government-run orphanages, since there he will be treated heartlessly and cruelly. Why doesn't it cross their mind that there are other ways out of this situation? For example, to improve the situation in the orphanages, to establish a volunteer service, which is being done little by little… Batushka, you have a group of volunteers who help handicapped children; please tell us about their work and about the children in the orphanage whom parents have abandoned.

Fr. Igor:--Our group of parishioners goes to the orphanage near Dmitrov, where they have sick little children; some of them have been completely abandoned by their parents, and others have parents who come to visit. This children were born with defects: without hands, without feet or without fingers, or with other defects, in general--severe and frightening defects. But this is what I want to say--they all have a remarkable heart, they all have a remarkable soul--every one of these children. And, honestly, I feel sorry for the parents who have renounced these children. Because, one could say, they have renounced their salvation.

This is the approach of the Orthodox Church. You have been given a cross, which was according to your strength--we know that a cross is never given if it is beyond your strength. And you could totally have raised that child. …

Interviewer:--Father Peter Kolomeitsev called handicapped children “otherwise gifted,” and their purpose of life among us he called “apostleship.” Do you agree with this?

Fr. Igor:--Yes, I really do agree with this. Perhaps some of the readers will accuse me that I have not seen children who are not only sick, but who have a serious defect or are even in the condition of a “vegetable:” they lie in bed and don't understand anything. No, you know, I have come into contact with this in my life and I had a positive experience communicating with such children. My Matushka and I would visit such children in orphanage #14. And when we would help the sick little kids there, it was very difficult to look at them, it was very painful.

But at the same time you suddenly see that you are needed by someone in this world, in which, among happy people, you are really not needed by anyone. But here you say that they can look at you thankfully.

Yes, you can be paid for your work, you can be given money or something else. But there is a completely different payment--thankful eyes; and this is the biggest payment. This is the biggest payment that a person can acquire or earn in his life.

Father Igor Fomin is rector of the church of St. Alexander Nevsky at Moscow State Institute and the father of four children.

Translated from Russian by Maria Larsen from

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A story from the Alexandra Clinic in Greece

A mother was diagnosed with cysts in the pancreas and two of her children had already died because they were born with this congenital disease. They were baptized. One died at at 40 days old and one at 3 and 1/2 years old. She had two other pregnancies that resulted in natural [not induced] miscarriages. One of her children was born healthy. [When she became pregnant again] the second child showed clinical issues and so doctors told the mother to have an abortion because of her condition. [She chose not to have an abortion] and the second child was born and this mother is to be praised for her endurance and faith. The second child was also born healthy and baptized in a monastery dedicated to the Panayia in Lastithi, Greece on the day of the Panayia, August 15th 

Translated from Greek, from The Truth About Abortions, published by Orthodox Kypseli, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2011 (page 131) 

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From a conversation with Geronda Paisios of Holy Mountain:

“Geronda, one lady, forty years old, who has older children, was three months pregnant. Her husband threatens that if she does not have an abortion he will divorce her.” 

Geronda responded: “If she has the abortion, the other children might get ill or get in accidents. The parents kill their children through abortions and do not receive the blessing from God. In the old times, when a child was born ill, they would baptize the child and the child would die an angel and was very safe in God’s hands.” 

The Life of Geronda Paisios the Agioreite, by Hieromonk Isaac, Holy Mountain, 2004;  translated by OrthodoxProLife

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How Geronda Paisios Helped Me 
by George Kambouris

In 1992 I was part of a military group in the river Evros and at that time my wife Maria was pregnant with our second child and was in her sixth month. A Strep antibody test came back positive and this greatly worried us. 

We immediately asked many specialized physicians who advised us to terminate the pregnancy because it is proven that Strep can affect the eyes, the ears and the brain tissue of the embryo. The probability was 80-85% that the child would be born blind, mute and mentally disabled. I could not sleep because I was worried but I tried not to show my wife my concerns and agony. 

I visited Geronda Paisios [of Holy Mountain] and told him about my wife and the pregnancy. He said, “I do not think that God will give you Golgotha but if this is His Will, and he gives you a cross, I will pray that He gives you strength to carry your cross. I will pray you do not ascend Golgotha and that your wife gives birth to a healthy baby. Be careful - Do not permit the physicians to use your wife as an experimental situation. Ask a doctor in Germany or America - but mainly Germany - and see what they do there for this health situation.” 

It happened I visited a friend who offered me some wine as part of the hospitality. He was talking to his son on the phone who was a physician who specialized in obstetrics in Germany. I remembered Geronda’s words and I asked to speak to him on the phone. 

After I told him about the microbiological tests and the health situation, I asked for his scientific opinion. He told me I was lucky because the test results were not as high so as to cause the bacterium to travel through the amniotic fluid and cross into the amniotic sac where the embryo lived. So the embryo had not been infected with the Strep. I felt relieved; and the joy that I felt cannot be described. 

Following Geronda’s advise I did not let my wife become a patient used for experimentation and in November we had a healthy child. 

Published in Greek in “ERO”, a magazine of Enomeni Romiosini Youth 

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Baby Sarah Switzer and Baby Samuel Armas

In 1999 an unborn child named Sarah Marie Switzer, twenty-four weeks after conception, was operated on for spina bifida. A photograph published in Life magazine captured the world's attention. The photograph shows Sarah's arm extending out of the incision in the uterus, clasping the surgeon's finger, before she was sewn back inside her mother. The photograph won Life's award for picture of the year in science and technology. Sarah was put back inside her mother and was born two months later, nine weeks premature. 

Sarah was the patient; she was given anesthetics to dull the pain; and doctors acted to preserve and enhance her life. But if her parents had decided later that they didn't want her, they could have legally had her killed any time in the following months (without anesthetics), right up until her moment of birth. People should look at the picture. Can anyone honestly believe that this is not a human being? Or can people honestly believe that it is morally acceptable to kill such a child? Yet children just like Sarah, invisible to us only because the womb has no windows, are killed every day in the name of “choice.”

In 1999 another unborn child, Samuel Armas, was operated on for spina bifida at twenty-one weeks. As the surgeon was closing the womb, a miracle happened. Baby Samuel pushed his hand out of the womb and grabbed the surgeon's finger. Photographer Michael Clancy caught this astonishing act on film. And in that instant, Clancy went from being prochoice to being prolife. As he put it, “I was totally in shock for two hours after the surgery... I know abortion is wrong now – it's absolutely wrong.” Samuel Armas was sewn back into his mother's womb, then born nearly four months later in December 1999.

Unfortunately, many people have not looked at these pictures of Sarah Switzer or Samuel Armas. Nor have they considered the implications of what it means for physicians to be treating a patient, giving him anesthetics to dull the pain, performing a lifesaving or life-enhancing surgery on him, watching him grasp the surgeon's finger, and then turning around and saying it is perfectly acceptable to kill that same patient during the remaining four months until he is born.

The good news is that some people are finally starting to see the self-evident moral inconsistency of this position. The bad news is, other people remain blind. A stunning example of this is that the surgeon whose finger both Baby Samuel and Baby Sarah were grasping in the pictures performs abortions on spina bifida children of the same age! Dr. Joseph Bruner is the name of the surgeon who performed the surgery on both Sarah and Samuel, and whose finger you see in both photographs. He has performed over eighty in utero spina bifida operations. Of all people, he could not be unaware of the humanity of that child grasping his finger. In fact, it is reported that “to ease the strain [on the unborn child], Dr. Bruner often talks to the unborn children while he works – to soothe them, to keep them quiet, and to let them know what is going on. Sometimes he conveys a message from the parents, 'We love you. We are trying our best to help.'”

Yet the fact is, Dr. Bruner also aborts children with spina bifida. He is paid to either save or kill children with the same condition, at the same age of development, according to the desires of the parent.  He says this is “an increasingly difficult position to be in.” He added, “Because we are performing surgery to improve the lifestyle of fetuses who have spina bifida, it is difficult to justify an operation that could also take that life away. As we walk through this mine field, society is going to have to take a good, hard look at itself, because it is untenable to hold both views.”

It's not just abortionists who prefer not to deal with this evidence. Journalist Matt Drudge, author of the “Drudge Report,” attempted to use Baby Samuel's photo on his Fox News Network television show, but was forbidden to do so by the network management. They feared he might use the photo as “a jumping-off point to talk about partial-birth abortion. Due to the network's censorship of the photograph, Drudge resigned.

excerpt from Randy Alcorn's book: ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments (pages 33-34, 93-94)

The photos below are of Sarah Switzer and Samuel Armas about a decade after their births:

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Orthodox Hierarch in America Speaks Against Aborting the Deformed
Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Archdiocese Delivers a Homily in Church on the Topic of Abortion

The following are excerpts from a homily given by Bishop Basil (Essey) of Wichita, Kansas, Bishop of the Mid-American Diocese of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. The homily was delivered from the pulpit on 'Right to Life' Sunday, January 20, 2008.

Sometimes, women can be frightened into the thought of abortion. [Sometimes women are told] “Your child is going to be born deaf, blind, or terribly deformed.” Well, we have one of the most beautiful young men who serves in this altar. The doctors frightened his mother and his father so bad, [telling them] that his insides were going to be born outside. You know who I'm talking about, many of you. [Doctors told his parents] “All of his insides are going to be born outside.” How he was born looked like a little golf ball. He was in a membrane, just his intestines, tiny, tiny, like a golf ball and a little white membrane. And one of our own - Dr. Catherine, who used to sit right there where Susan is, now up in Kansas City - simply put back in. Very simple. Simple for us to say that, but really a miracle that someone could do that. His only flaw, if you want to talk about a child having a flaw, and I thought that it was a cool flaw, was that he wouldn't have a belly-button. I thought that that would be cool. The only one like that is Adam, right? But they created one for him. 

Of course there are other stories, brothers and sisters, that don't have such happy endings. We know that. But abortion - killing the child - is not the answer. Murder is murder, and that is exactly what the commandment says. It doesn't say, Thou shalt not kill. The original words say, Thou shalt not commit murder. And that means some innocent victim someplace. And there is no one more innocent than the child in the womb. We kill our own church, brothers and sisters, every time an Orthodox woman has an abortion. Every time we deny our church, not only of a member, but who knows, maybe even of a saint. Brothers and sisters, be BOLD for life, and not because it is a 'right'. Because it is a gift from God, for which all we can do is say thank you. 

You know how many people in this world [who want children but are not able to have children] have to say 'thank you' to God [and trust in God's wisdom that He has not allowed them to have children]? [There are people who have to say to God]: “You know better than I, You have not given me children, but I still thank you because You know better than I.” My sister is one [such person]. She tried everything under the sun [to have children, but could not.] And there are people here you know, in your own families, among this whole congregation, who would give anything to say 'thank you' to God for that child. 

And others are so ungrateful, so selfish, so much 'wiser' than God, so much 'more merciful' than God. [They say:] “I can't let a child be born into this world with deformation.” Are you more merciful than God who created him or her? How dare you?! Are you more merciful than God?!  The child - no matter how deformed, deaf, blind, its insides out, everything wrong with it - is still a GIFT FROM GOD for which this world and the Church does give thanks. 

And if you are so BLESSED by that kind of a child, that child will teach you humility. That child will teach you what it is like to wash the feet of another; that child will teach you mercy and compassion! Call it a vegetable... What does it do for the world? What use is that life? What can it contribute to society? It makes us a merciful society, brothers and sisters, a compassionate society. That's what it does for us. Without people like that, we become proud and self-satisfied. We become what the Nazis hoped to become creating a 'perfect' society where deformation is hidden away, or done away with, and only perfect people are allowed. Then whose feet do I wash? Where are the weak among us? 

Be bold for life, brothers and sisters, in ALL circumstances! Even when it's difficult. The Church NEVER, under any circumstances, says [that abortion is] right, even for the mother's life. You mothers tell me, 'I would die for my child. He's sick, let me take [his sickness], I would die for my child.' And yet the child in the womb you won't die for?!... Y'all are liars when you say that. 

You be THANKFUL, brothers and sisters, be thankful for God's gift of life. It is the most precious thing that He has given us. Brothers and sisters, be thankful, scripture says, in ALL things. No matter in what circumstance we find ourselves, there is always a reason that we can find to give thanks, and in all circumstances to be a joyful people, because we are loved by a merciful, compassionate, and eager to forgive God. 


The audio recording of this homily is posted online at:

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Rebecca Kiessling Speaks About the 'Hard Cases'
and Choosing Life for Children with 'Special Needs'

Rebecca Kiessling was conceived in rape and escaped an abortion death.  She is an adoptee, an attorney, an international Pro-Life speaker, a wife, a mother of three adopted children and a mother of three biological children.  One of her adopted children, whom she received the time of the child's birth, was a child born with special needs who died at 33 days old.  OrthodoxProLife shares more of Rebecca's story on our web page titled "Cases Involving Rape and Incest", however, this video clip of Rebecca is included on this page as well because in it she discusses choosing life for a child with special needs in the midst of our abortion culture.  She discusses the life and death of her special needs daughter, whom she adopted from birth.  The video is 11 minutes in length and her statements about choosing life for children with special needs start at 3:12.

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Wrongful Birth: Is the Orthodox View Consistent with the Law? 
By Slavko Ristich, Esq.

In 1808, Lord Ellenborough wrote that a “husband had no action for loss of his wife’s services through her death, and declared in broad terms that in a civil court the death of a human being could not be complained of as an injury.” By in large this was the law of not only England, but the prevailing law of the commonwealth and the United States.

In essence, the law served to make it cheaper for a defendant to kill a plaintiff rather than to injure him. The inequity in the law saw the passage of the Fatal Accidents Acts of 1846 and with it came the modern wrongful death law suit. Today, many see the cause of action for wrongful death as a logical segment of civil law, where certain bereaving family members may have a remedy against a negligent tort-feasor.

Today, Courts are facing similar questions, only the cause of action Courts are faced with is that of “wrongful birth.” There are two basic classifications into which the cases in this area may be divided: 1) those where the defendant tortiously inflicts a physical injury, through to body of the mother, upon an unborn child; and 2) those where the defendant’s tortious acts or omissions result in the birth of the unwanted. The first classification has not garnered as much controversy as the logic can be seen when a tort-feasor causes injury to an unborn child. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Courts have been very careful (since 1973) in how they approach the issue of injury to the unborn.

The second classification has caused much greater disagreement in the law and is currently on display in a New Jersey Courtroom.


The underlying facts of the case read much like a nightmare for a first time parent. Wanda Tineo became aware that she was pregnant in June 2002. Like most first-time parents, Mrs. Tineo, along with her husband, were very excited about the prospect of bringing a child into this world. However, the Tineos were saddled with a concern that was certainly out of the ordinary.

Tineo’s family had a history of a rare genetic disorder known as myotubular myopathy. Myotubular myopathy is a family of rare, inherited diseases manifesting itself as a defect in the cell structure of voluntary muscles; it causes low muscle tone and, in most forms, is usually apparent at birth. Affected children have diminished respiratory capacity and are often partially or totally ventilator dependent.

Prior to her pregnancy, Wanda watched two of her nephews die of this condition before their tenth birthdays. Both her and her husband had made a decision to abort any pregnancy if their unborn child was afflicted with this disease. To that end, the Tineos consulted the services of Dr. Khoury Aldo, a high risk obstetrician and gynecologist.

Ms. Tineo requested a test, which included extracting amniotic fluid from the amniotic sac and testing her unborn child for the rare disorder. To this point, all parties agree as to how this case developed.

Thereafter, the defendants disagree as to what transpired. Dr. Khoury claims that he ordered the test to be performed by LabCorp of America, while LabCorp contends that Dr. Khoury failed to complete the request form properly. Regardless of fault, the necessary test was never completed and the Tineos were advised that their unborn child was healthy and free of myotubular myopathy.

In April 2003, Justin Tineo was born and to the surprise of all, was born with this debilitating disease. The Tineo family filed suit against Dr. Khoury, LabCorp, and the treating OB/GYN.

As of the date of this article, the case is before a New Jersey Court.

The Law and The Orthodox View

This second branch of wrongful birth cases almost without fail includes doctors and laboratories as defendants. In the past, such cases have arisen from contraception failure, negligent sterilization, abortion procedures or like the case herein, wherein doctors failed to diagnose a disease or infirmity. In cases such as the Tineo case, plaintiffs allege that if the physician advised them of the illness, they would have chosen to abort the unborn child.

This type of case was first seen in New Jersey in 1967 with the case of Gleitman v. Cosgrove, wherein the Supreme Court of New Jersey refused to recognize a cause of action for “wrongful birth,” holding that “the infant plaintiff would have us measure the difference between his life with defects against the utter void of nonexistence, but it is impossible to make such distinction.” They also mentioned the “unmeasurable and complex human benefits of motherhood and fatherhood.”

However, the Gleitman decision needs to be contextualized in a pre- Roe v. Wade era. Since the legalization of abortion in 1973, Courts have been much more willing to entertain such cases, since the alternative (abortion) is now viewed (by the Courts) as a permissible option, whereas when the Gleitman decision was decided, abortion was illegal and impermissible for any Court to recommend. Although Gleitman was reaffirmed both in New York and California (both bastions of the pro-choice movements), the case currently in New Jersey may be a marker for the future of wrongful birth cases.

However, in doing my research of these issues, I was very pleased to see that the Courts consistently used a common sense approach to cases such as the Tineo case. The Courts have adopted the attitude that “any life is better than no life” or at the very least, that Courts are not in the business of deciding if disabled existence is better than non-existence. My sole concern in cases such as the Tineo case was that little Justin was getting the expensive care he needed. s

Since ancient times the Church has viewed deliberate abortion as a grave sin. The canons equate abortion with murder. This assessment is based on the conviction that the conception of a human being is a gift of God. Therefore, from the moment of conception any encroachment on the life of a human being is criminal.

The Orthodox Christian view of abortion was presented to the United States Supreme Court in the Amicus Curiae brief of James Jatras.

While the Courts have neglected to directly answer the question of whether a disabled life is better than non-existence, the Orthodox Christian view is clear. All life is better than non-existence, because our lives are given by the grace of God and not to be taken away by the deeds of man.

While the costs to care for such children can be overwhelming, this is a problem we need to tackle as a society, rather than on an individual level. In an age of excessive materialism, outrageous military spending, and corporate malfeasance have we been led so far off the path that we can spend on such items but we are too inept as a society that we are unable to take care of those most in need, like little Justin Tineo?

Thus far the Courts have not recognized a cause of action for wrongful birth and in doing so, have implicitly stated that any life is better than non-existence. This is completely consistent with the common sense approach of the Orthodox Church. Let us now pray that our legislators do their job and make sure that girls and boys like little Justin Tineo get the care that they need and the care they deserve. Let us pray that little Justin’s parents feel the true joy of parenthood and that their child feels the deep love of his parents.

Justin’s life was not a wrongful birth, but a rightful life; the Orthodox Church understands this fact, but what will the Court in New Jersey say?

by Slavko Ristich, Esq., February 2007
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