"Couldn’t you have given me a better face?"

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According to family legend, when Sofiya discovered she was expecting another child, she wished to terminate the pregnancy. Elena Rostropovich, Sofiya’s granddaughter, explained the family was poor, and as both parents worked, one small child was enough to cope with.

A doctor friend prescribed various treatments, including some vigorous sporting activity, but they seemed to have the contrary effect. Indeed Sofiya Nikolayevna carried her child for a ten-month term and on 27 March 1927, she gave birth to a healthy boy.

Later her son Mstislav asked her, “You had an extra month, couldn’t you have given me a better face?” She answered philosophically, “My son I was more concerned with your hands….” —-Wilson E, Rostropovich: the Musical Life of the Great Cellist, Teacher and Legend, p.13-14, UK, Faber & Faber, 2008.

Mstislav Rostropovich, extraordinary Russian musician, freedom activist, accomplished conductor with a superb hand on the cello, is an example of a man whose musical gift, prodigious virtuosity, and incredible genius could have been lost due to abortion. We couldn’t have heard of him and his phenomenal talent. In his time, he might have missed great musicians like Britten, Casals, Khatchaturian, Bernstein, Prokokiev and a horde of music students whom he inspired. Had Rostropovich died in a planned abortion that his mom Sofiya desired when he was in utero, the world would have been poorer. The language of music emanating from the dexterity of his hands might have been silenced right before he was born.

The book about his life focuses on Rostropovich’s musicality and abortion is an inconsequential anecdote. It probably escapes the notice of the readers. Yet Rostropovich’s story is emblematic of what could have been for the millions of human beings mercilessly zapped from the womb of women. The world must be horrified by the mass deaths humanity inflict on the unborn.

My mom for a time thought of abortion too. Had she succeeded in her plan, I would not have been around (nor some of my elder brothers and sisters,) to write about it. Saddled by the burden of having to raise twelve children, she begged her doctor to do it. Fortunately, abortion was almost taboo 50 years ago. People believed it was morally wrong and the doctor refused to do it for her.

Today, in the Philippines, about half a million women undergo illegal unsafe abortions. Of this staggering number 79,000 had to be hospitalized to combat complications. About 800 of the women die. Of the half a million Filipino fetuses destroyed by abortion, how many could have helped make the world a richer place for us to live in? Your guess is as good as mine.

By estimates, there are 46 million abortions performed yearly all over the world, 20 million of which are considered unsafe, mostly in poor countries. The message from statisticians and abortion advocates make us feel that if abortion is made legal, it would eliminate health threats on women. But we know this is not necessarily true. Without improvement of medical care, legalization of abortion can only worsen women’s risks when they go for the procedure. =0=

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