‘Love Is Blind’ eugenic abortion debate angers the Down syndrome community

A recent conversation between contestants on the reality show “Love Is Blind” has angered members of the Down syndrome community.

On the show, contestants start by talking to each other through isolated pods, where they can have conversations without seeing each other face-to-face. Once a marriage proposal is accepted, they are finally able to see each other, and then spend time together in a couples retreat at a resort. Engaged couple Nancy Rodriguez and Bartise Bowden had previously bonded over their mutual love of children, but at 31, Rodriguez was worried that as she got older, she would be at higher risk for having a child with birth defects — which led to the subject of abortion.

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“What would you do if you found out that your child had a birth defect and you could abort the pregnancy?” Rodriguez, who works as a speech language pathologist (SLP), asked. “Do you want to keep the baby?”

Bowden had no hesitation whatsoever, and was immediately horrified at the prospect of undergoing a eugenic abortion. “F*** no. Yeah, keep the baby,” he said. “What the f — yeah. I could not… F*** no.”

But Rodriguez had different ideas — and what angered members of the Down syndrome and disability community was how Rodriguez specifically used her work to justify her support of eugenic abortions.

“I think it’s different for me,” she said. “I’ve seen so much in my field. It was so emotionally draining and so sad that I would cry almost every day. A lot of time, even just with Down syndrome, there’s so many complications… medical and also, learning complications. And I see the amount of trauma that it does to the family. For me, if I knew I could try again and hope that the second time it was better. I could go that route, to be honest.”

Bowden again shut that idea down, saying he was “mentally tough” enough to handle anything. “Really?” he asked. “I would never. I could never do that.”

Later, the two discussed the issue with Bowden’s family, who is pro-life, and they were horrified. Bowden later expounded upon why in an interview afterwards. “The idea was the child that we planned on having was going to be terminated because it would be a problem for us,” he said. “It’s like a way of taking the easy way out. And for my sister, who went to college and was in a program that was specifically geared to tending to special needs children, I knew it was going to be a problem if it got brought up at the dinner table, which it did. It was accurately depicted there.”

Ableism is a major problem contributing to eugenic abortions, including in the medical community — as Rodriguez’s comments showed. One survey found that just 11% of women reported having a positive prenatal diagnosis experience, while another survey found that 13% of doctors admitted to purposely overemphasizing the negative aspects of Down syndrome in an effort to pressure parents into abortion.

The “Love Is Blind” conversation made some fans understandably angry, and many of them spoke out on social media.

“Hey Nancy – I don’t know the families you worked with, but if you actually asked them, got to know them, I can guarantee you that the majority of them WOULD NOT choose that path,” wrote one commenter on Facebook. “Even knowing the challenges. Even knowing that the world won’t always be kind to them. Even knowing that there are actual people that you hire to help your child and that those people actually think so badly about them (thankfully never our experience!) they would choose to abort them and ‘try again.’ Shame on you, Nancy, for using this very large platform you are now on to spread such disgusting non-truths about the Down syndrome population.”

The commenter later added that this has nothing to do with her overall views on abortion, saying, “This is the fact that someone who has worked with the [Down syndrome] community spoke on things (in front of a large audience) she has no validity to speak on. She spoke for ME and my family (as a family with a child with [Down syndrome]) and she spoke WRONG.”

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