Perinatal Hospice: A Compassionate, Life-Affirming Option

Mary Szoch is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. Dr. Jennifer Bauwens is Director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council. This article was co-written with Dr. Michael New, assistant professor at The Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business and a senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. This article appeared in National Review on March 6, 2024.

Legal abortion is going to take center stage during Thursday’s State of the Union address. The first lady and Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.) are each bringing as a guest a woman who recently obtained an out-of-state abortion after learning her preborn child had serious fetal anomalies. President Biden, Democratic elected officials, and countless media commentators will doubtless highlight the tragic stories of these women in an attempt to generate greater support for permissive abortion laws.

However, what will receive far less attention is the compassionate option of perinatal hospice for pregnant women who receive adverse prenatal diagnoses. Indeed, many women who receive the tragic news that their preborn son or daughter has a life-limiting condition seek the services of perinatal hospice. Perinatal hospices provide both professional counseling and health care. Importantly, they give women the life-affirming option to carry their pregnancies to term.

Our forthcoming Family Research Council study surveyed 82 women who recently obtained services through perinatal hospice. We found that perinatal hospices offered a range of valuable resources to women. These included counseling, sonograms, prayer, support groups, and a birth plan. High percentages of women found each of these services “very helpful.” Overall, 83 percent felt that perinatal hospice was “very supportive” emotionally. Additionally, 67 percent found that perinatal hospice services were “very helpful” in the grieving process.

Disappointingly, our study found that a high percentage of women who received an adverse prenatal diagnosis were advised by medical professionals to obtain an abortion. In many cases, women received this advice repeatedly. Only a relatively small percentage of the time were they encouraged to carry their pregnancy to term. Similarly, only a small percentage of women received information about perinatal hospice from their ob-gyn.

Given that, increasing the awareness of perinatal hospice among policy-makers, health-care professionals, the general public is an important and worthwhile goal for the pro-life movement. It will give women who obtain adverse prenatal diagnoses more options. Furthermore, it will hopefully result in a higher percentage of these women making the life-affirming choice of perinatal hospice for both themselves and their preborn children.