In “My Baby And AOL’s Bottom Line,” Deanna Fei rips into the CEO of the company that employs her husband for blaming her baby for an unpopular financial decision:
Late last week, Tim Armstrong, the chief executive officer of AOL, landed himself in a media firestorm when he held a town hall with employees to explain why he was paring their retirement benefits. After initially blaming Obamacare for driving up the company’s health care costs, he pointed the finger at an unlikely target: babies.
Specifically, my baby.
“Two things that happened in 2012,” Armstrong said. “We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general. And those are the things that add up into our benefits cost. So when we had the final decision about what benefits to cut because of the increased healthcare costs, we made the decision, and I made the decision, to basically change the 401(k) plan.”
Fei’s essay was posted on Slate on February 9. One can easily get whiplash reading Slate. Only four days earlier, Phoebe Day Danziger’s essay was posted: “A Peaceful Death: Aborting my son was not about when life begins, but how to end it humanely.”
We could have chosen to speak with pediatric subspecialists from neonatology, nephrology, urology, and/or palliative care to talk about options for his care, both prenatally and after birth, though based on the severity of his condition, it was clear that he would not be a likely candidate for some of the prenatal interventions that can be effective, or at least ameliorative, in certain situations. Because of my familiarity with what many of the different therapeutic and palliative care options entailed—medically, ethically, personally—it was clear to me that what we were dealing with was choosing an end-of-life care plan for our son. And because my husband and I believe more in evidence than in miracles, we knew that the appropriate time to implement that plan was now. We did not explicitly consider the potentially tremendous cost of pursuing aggressive treatment or the psychological impact on our daughter and our family of continuing a pregnancy with what would end up being, one way or another, a dying child, but in retrospect those concerns were implicit in our decision-making.
It was a Friday afternoon, and we scheduled the dilation and evacuation for Monday morning. It was surreal to exist in the world that weekend in such a liminal state, to walk around feeling our baby kick his little legs and flip around, knowing that after Monday I would never feel him again.
The first article described all the heroic and expensive measures that were taken to save Fei’s premature and underweight daughter. The theme is that all this heroic care should just happen and be paid for by someone as if math isn’t real. (I’m thrilled that infant girl had access to these resources, but the idea that mentioning the costs and trying to accommodate them is blameworthy strikes me as an exercise in escapism. Armstrong’s crime according to the response seems to me to be that he acted as if expenses had to be paid rather simply that he said something rude.) But second article is about killing “my son” because it would be so painful and expensive to refrain from doing so. In fact, the great evil here is that Michigan mandates that women pay for their own abortions rather than using public funds.
Opponents of abortion may argue that terminating my pregnancy violated our baby’s human rights and that if anything, we should have continued the pregnancy and opted for palliative care at birth.
The more surprising and hurtful responses, however, have been from people like my staunchly pro-choice friend who told me that she was jarred by my use of the word son to describe our fetus, as though the moral basis for abortion depends on denying the fetus any semblance of humanity, no matter how close it is to the point of viability, no matter how the woman herself chooses to define her relationship to the fetus.
Danziger can’t figure out why we aren’t all totally fine with parents committing murder at will—why her liberal friends must dehumanize babies in their minds before they can vivisect them and drag them from their wombs. “In our case, abortion was a parenting decision…”
A parenting decision that was based “implicitly” on the “potentially tremendous cost of pursuing aggressive treatment.”
What happens when all health care becomes a matter of “public” funds? Does anyone think government bureaucrats are going to be more humane than the CEO of AOL?