Analysis

Allowing babies with disabilities to live is not ‘grotesque’ or ‘cruel’

Down syndrome, disabilities

The topic of abortion is currently one of the country’s most hot-button issues, and abortion advocates are doing all they can to argue that abortion is desperately needed. The latest example comes from a Virginia newspaper, which ran an editorial complaining that preborn children with disabilities will actually get to live if abortion is not legal across the country.

The Daily Progress is the only daily newspaper serving the area of Charlottesville, Virginia. Recently, they published an editorial slamming the notion of laws protecting preborn children with disabilities from eugenic abortions. “Forcing a woman to give birth to a baby with severe abnormalities because she is poor is grotesquely Orwellian,” they wrote, adding, “Being compelled to bring a child into the world who will suffer chronically or die young because you cannot afford to pay to spare them the suffering adds nothing to society. It is cruel.”

The op-ed is in response to a proposal from Governor Youngkin that would strip state funding for discriminatory, eugenic abortions. Yet the Daily Progress doesn’t see this as a matter of protecting a vulnerable class of people who already face discrimination in virtually every sphere of life; they clearly see abortion as a way to keep parents from being saddled with a child who isn’t worth the effort.

“Who wants to sentence a human being to a lifetime of pain or suffering? If Youngkin’s budget amendment forces a single poor woman to do that, it will be an abomination,” the paper continued. They further point to Trisomy 18, as opposed to Down syndrome, as “proof” that these eugenic abortions are needed, as many children with Trisomy 18 only live for a short time after birth, and those that have survived have intellectual disabilities. The idea is clearly to paint as negative a picture as possible.

READ: Hallmark actress wants to be the first with Down syndrome to win an Oscar

Medical advances are giving children with Trisomy 18 the chance not only to survive, but thrive; the problem is not the condition itself, but the reticence of the medical community to actually treat those who have it. When children with Trisomy 18 are given the treatment they need, everything changes. But if preborn children with Trisomy 18 are aborted in such large numbers, it will make it less and less likely for more medical professionals to learn about the condition and how best to treat it.

 

This treatment is essentially the same thing the Down syndrome community went through decades ago; in the 1980s, a little baby boy with Down syndrome was left to slowly die, alone and suffering, merely because of his disability. His doctor decreed it would be worse for him to live than to die, so his parents agreed, and let him slowly starve to death.

At that time, the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome was about 30 years. Today, it’s approximately 60 years, though many people with Down syndrome live even longer.

Yet for The Daily Progress, this is merely a matter of choice, of acting against “forced pregnancy” under “some of the worst circumstances imaginable.” These supposedly terrible circumstances are merely disabilities. Just because someone’s life may look different than what is considered the norm doesn’t mean that it is acceptable for an able-bodied person to decide to kill him.

Karen Gaffney is a champion swimmer who has Down syndrome. She’s also the president of a non-profit organization, the Karen Gaffney Foundation, which advocates inclusion for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities. She attended the University of Portland, where she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 2013 for her work in raising awareness for people with Down syndrome, as well as her advocacy work. Gaffney appeared in a Live Action video rebutting the notion of aborting people simply because they have a disability.

“Ending the life of an unborn child because he or she will have a disability is wrong, it is very, very wrong,” she said. “This comes from a belief that people with disabilities are weak and need to be weeded out from society. This view is unjust, tragic, and deserving of international outrage. It has no place in a world that stands for basic human rights.”

Rather than ending the lives of people with disabilities before they’re born, simply because they’re different, Gaffney said we should celebrate these differences and work to make the world a more inclusive place. “Let’s embrace those moms and dads that are choosing life for their babies who may be born with disabilities,” she said. “AND let’s band together, to focus on improving lives, not preventing them.”

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