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CONJOINED TWINS' PARENTS SHOULD DECIDE BABIES' FATE

Early on a recent quiet morning, I signed on to my Internet account to check the latest results from the Sydney Olympics, not yet having figured out whether the events were happening that day - or the day before - or maybe even the next. I was sidetracked by the international news section.

The headline read: "British court to decide whether Siamese twins must be separated." I clicked on it, looked at the picture and gagged. The horror of those conjoined baby girls, the twisted mass of arms and legs, the tiny faces so close together that each is forced to breathe the exhaled air of the other - I couldn't handle it. I had tears in my eyes and a painful lump in my chest.

Then I read the article and gagged again. But this time I handled it easily. I was enraged to read the words of British Lord Justice Henry Brooke: "The difficulty is, what is this creature in the eyes of the law?"

I was overwhelmed with a desire to fly to London, hunt down the lord justice and force his white, furry wig down his throat. The arrogance contained in the word "creature" proved that this man had no business injecting himself into this most awful, heart-tugging tragedy.

Perhaps the lord justice is himself a kind and caring man. Perhaps he loves his dogs and contributes to charity and attends Sunday services regularly. But when he resorted to the word "creature" to describe the terribly ill twin girls, he was clearly distancing himself from the messy world of things gone wrong that we lesser mortals inhabit.

For reasons that will never make sense to me, this man was given the power to ignore the wishes of the babies' parents and to force a medical procedure that violated their most sacred religious beliefs. He ordered a surgical separation that would cause the weaker girl to die in order to preserve the life of the stronger one.

But who was he to make this choice? Who made him more worthy than the parents to make this most awful of decisions?

My friends were surprised that I agreed with the Catholic Church, since I've long been an outspoken pro-choice advocate. They shouldn't have been. My core belief has always been that there are private decisions in every life that are too important to be left to pandering politicians or disengaged legal experts.

My husband was puzzled. "God gave the doctors the power to save one life. Don't you think they should try to save one baby?" Yes, in fact, I do. In the same situation, I would choose the surgery. But that doesn't matter because it's not my call.

Once the matter arrived in court, the power to decide was given to strangers who would never touch the babies, who would never love them and who would never mourn them for a moment once the headlines faded and new horrors appeared.

The awesome power of the state had no business intruding into this most agonizing private sadness. This judge should have let the parents of the "creature,' in communion with their friends, their families and their God, make the decision that is theirs - and theirs alone - to make.

MANYA WARN lives in Williamsville.

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