Ending Down syndrome abortions

This blog entry is my off-the-cuff response reply to this op ed in the Times today: 

Today the New York Times offered up an editorial called “Outlawing Abortion Won’t Help Children with Down Syndrome”. A title like that is sure to draw me in, being both a parent of a child with Down syndrome and a resident of North Dakota.

North Dakota has one abortion provider in the entire state.

Recently, North Dakota passed a law that makes abortion illegal for a fetus with a genetic birth defect (like Down syndrome). As I see it, this law is an attempt by those in charge right now to express their disapproval of the practice of abortion and shine a light on the eugenics practice that is happening. To those who are pro-life, aborting a baby with Down syndrome is simply eugenics.

What’s wrong with eugenics?

Eugenics is just seeking to improve the human race through selective breeding to eliminate bad traits, right? Historically, this has been a favorite tool for tyrants. It is a slippery slope–if you’re okay with eliminating this type of person because the value of their life is worth less than a “normal” baby, then why wouldn’t another person think we should eliminate fetuses who are genetically prone to becoming alcoholics, or gay, or baby girls who carry a high risk of having breast cancer, or boys who will have crooked teeth?

In these cases, practicing eugenics just eliminated Tennessee Williams, Cole Porter, Elton John, Cheryl Crow, Diahann Carroll, and David Bowie, to name a few. By condoning eugenics, you sanction the notion that some people shouldn’t be allowed to live because they are a burden and their lives are worth less than your own. You strip them of their dignity. Pray you never become a burden in such a world as you seek to create.

Abortion supporters insist, and I tend to agree: it will be hard to pinpoint the reason that a woman is getting an abortion. To many who are pro-choice, the reason for obtaining an abortion does not matter. Poor? Single? Too young? If these are reasons to flush out a fetus, surely a genetic defect is a worthy reason. Beyond that though, I see this as an opportunity for Down syndrome advocates to unite and insist that the life of our children is as valuable and important as any other life.

What really is the most heinous thing in the article was this line: “For most of these women, abortion was an incredibly painful decision. These were wanted pregnancies in which the fetus was already identified as a child, and often even named.”

Yet you still choose to terminate because of Down syndrome? What?! We like to think we are so civilized and have come so far in our understanding from previous generations…but what is really worse and more inhumane: having the baby and putting them up for adoption or into a state hospital right after birth (as was the common practice up until the 1970s), or wiping the baby off the earth? No. This abortion boils down to either eugenics or ugly convenience. If you indeed faced a moral dilemma and if you were truly torn, you got some terrible counsel.

Additionally, by eliminating people with Down syndrome from our society, you are essentially gutting the system of programs designed to help those the author claims to love:
 “If North Dakota really does want it to be “a great day for babies in North Dakota” and wants to prove that “a civil society does not discriminate against people … for their sex or for disability,” it should make the state a welcoming place for people with disabilities. The state could take the cash reserves it has put aside for legal challenges to its laws and use those funds to train public schools to be meaningfully inclusive (as all the best research shows is the way to go). It could provide easily accessible medical care and early intervention.”

Why should any state or government bother to fund programs for people you wish to eliminate? What does it matter?

I haven’t lived in North Dakota my whole life. After spending most of my life in Minnesota, we moved last year out west to Montana. We could not get out of that state fast enough, but because my husband was under contract with his employer, we had to ‘tough it out’ for one year. The school system in the city we lived in were a nightmare for children with special education needs. The lack of training and funding made the system ripe for neglect and abuses cases. Our child was a victim of discrimination there, and the whole situation was a true nightmare for us and our daughter (that I will have to share in another post.) As soon as we were able, we RAN from that state, and hightailed it back to the Midwest, where the schools are excellent. Our daughter is now thriving in an amazing school setting with a full staff of well-trained therapists and educators, and a para-professional aide who is by her side throughout her school day.

This year her school in North Dakota had an “End The R-Word” citywide campaign. She is included and treated with respect. Please don’t bad-mouth the education system of our little North Dakota town. The teachers here care, and sure, I’d like to see them all paid better with the surplus of oil money we have in our coffers…but before insisting upon that, we need to get our society straightened out on the value of ALL life and adopt a culture of nonviolence. Hard to do that when you are following barbaric “medical” procedures.

The article sort of fails off topic then and mentions rape a couple times. One mother was raped and cited statistics feared her unborn baby would likely be a victim of a similar crime, so she aborted it instead. Huh? You know what lady? The “normal” child you end up bringing into the world some day might be a victim or a rapist. The child could also, god forbid, suffer an accident that left them disabled as well. The justification of sparing them because they could be a victim is preposterous at best.

As a resident of North Dakota, I understand that the likelihood of this law being overturned by the courts is almost a sure thing. In the meantime, rather than proclaiming that this law will do nothing to spare babies from ‘termination’, I’d like to take the opportunity to say Hooray! My child’s life matters and everyone like her should be allowed to live!


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