Babies with Down syndrome are aborted at an alarming rate, and too often, the decision is framed as one of “mercy.” Children with Down syndrome are suffering, their lives are too hard, they’ll be a burden to their family, so the best and kindest thing to do for them is… to kill them? Obviously, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but the argument nevertheless gets made. And so says Sophie Horan, a woman who writes about how she decided to kill her preborn daughter, purely because she had Down syndrome.
Eight weeks on, we were still so blissfully happy that we hadn’t yet discussed having a CVS or amnio. We were too busy pouring over the four sonograms of our little baby. In just over two months, we’d watched him or her morph from a bean-shaped embryo into a little human being with a face and arms and legs — fingers and toes, too.
… When I broke the news to my husband, he immediately began searching for “raising a Down Syndrome child” online. My heart broke. A few days earlier, he was the happiest I’d ever seen him, his hands cradling my tummy while we danced at a concert. How was I going to tell him that, should the CVS confirm our worst fears, I didn’t want to keep the baby? My child deserved better than a life of struggle and frustration due to a condition that he or she would never be able to change. Plus, there was no predicting the severity of the disorder — some children with Down Syndrome are able to feed themselves and attend school; others require more urgent and consistent care. Knowing that my husband and I wouldn’t live long enough to provide the necessary long-term care for our child was stressful, to say the least. I did not want him or her to ever feel lonely, lack independence, or be confined to a nursing home when we passed on.
“Do you remember the people who live in Nana’s nursing home — the ones who aren’t elderly?” I tried explaining to my husband. Mostly they just sat in their wheel chairs, staring into space. “No one comes to visit them,” Nana had said, adding that most had older parents who’d already passed on. My husband listened, then resumed his search.
… Only then, after I’d gotten to know my baby as well as I possibly could, did I feel I was ready to make the hardest decision of my life — terminate the pregnancy. And I would make it as a mother who wanted to do the best for her child.
Can we just get one thing straight? These people don’t abort their children with Down syndrome out of kindness or mercy or love. It is never the merciful or loving thing to do to deprive someone of life because they don’t meet some arbitrary standard of perfection being forced onto them by their parents. People choose to do this because they don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of a child with special needs, because the thought of a child requiring a little extra work than a “normal” child is abhorrent. They do it because they can’t let go of ignorance and of outdated stereotypes.
There are not, for example, “degrees” of Down syndrome. There is no spectrum. Like literally every single other child on the planet, children with Down syndrome have varying abilities and needs. It is not some kind of rarity for children with Down syndrome to be able to feed themselves and go to school — that is actually massively insulting, especially in this day and age when people with Down syndrome go to college, hold jobs, even own their own businesses. They are not blibbering idiots, sitting in their wheelchairs as they drool, staring vacantly into space.
These things, these reasons given for ending a preborn child’s life, are not accurate. They are stereotypes, and outdated, false ones at that. But even if that wasn’t the case, it still isn’t an argument to kill someone. Why does this woman get to decide when a person’s life suddenly becomes worth living… or when it isn’t? Why do we get to play God? No matter what kind of disability a person may have, they still have inherent worth and dignity. If she had a two-year-old who was in a car accident and became seriously disabled, would she kill that child, too?
Meanwhile, in Down syndrome reality, 99% of people with Down syndrome report being happy with their lives and who they are. Over 90% of parents say that they love their child with Down syndrome and have a more positive outlook; over 90% of siblings say that their sibling with Down syndrome has made them a better person. She says her child deserved “better than that” — better than what, exactly? A life filled with positivity and love and happiness?
There is nothing kind or merciful about robbing a child of life because they have an extra chromosome, and the facts do not back up the stereotypes that this woman killed for. The mythical life of struggles and frustration do not exist. They are excuses made to defend the decision to take the life of a preborn child.
The fact is, if these parents truly loved their children, they would not have robbed them of their lives, simply because they had an extra chromosome.