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Our Sunday Visitor features a BNA mom

January 5, 2011

This article came out in early December. Unfortunately, the online version is stripped of the beautiful accompanying photo of Amy Horlander holding her newborn son, Andrew Benedict.

  Helping parents cope with poor prenatal diagnosis

More pastoral care needed, say organizations that provide outreach to parents of ill unborn children

By Michelle Martin – OSV Newsweekly, 12/5/2010

Amy Horlander was preparing to move her family from Indianapolis to Cary, N.C., last spring. At the same time, she was expecting her family’s 10th child. It was a busy time, to say the least, but it was a happy time, too. 

Then, shortly before the move, Horlander found out that her baby boy was very, very sick and, if he was born alive, would die shortly after birth. 

She went online looking for support for birth defects and found, which offers support to couples and families who have had poor prenatal diagnoses and encourages them to carry their infants to term, or at least as long as possible. 

Searching for guidance

With ever more sophisticated prenatal tests available, there are more and more people in Horlander’s situation. Many go in for a “routine” ultrasound looking forward to catching a glimpse of their babies and maybe finding out if the baby is a boy or a girl, and the room goes quiet as a technician or doctor notices that something doesn’t look right. 

Others are notified after screening tests that the babies they are carrying have an elevated chance of neural tube defects such as spina bifida or chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, and are asked if they want a test such as amniocentesis to find out for sure. 

Generally, when a poor diagnosis is confirmed, the parents are told they still have time to abort the baby, and it is often suggested that abortion would be the best course of action. 

Catholic parents may look to the Church for information and pastoral care as they carry their babies to term, but such care is not always forthcoming, said Monica Rafie, the founder of Be Not Afraid (, which offers online support and resources for people facing a poor prenatal diagnosis.  

“What we don’t have is widespread parish response,” said Rafie, who participated in an Oct. 5 webinar on poor prenatal diagnoses hosted by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD). “If you travel across the country, there are good programs in every state, but they are not everywhere. … This is not a new problem. Prenatal testing has been around for a long time. We’re behind on this.”  continue

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