Down Syndrome, Abortion and the Church’s Response

Disturbing news here. A new, simple blood test of pregnant mothers can screen for Down Syndrome. The current, more invasive and risky screening process is not chosen by most moms-to-be. However, the stats show that 92% of fetuses screened that have Down Syndrome are aborted. In other words, doctors are working on getting more babies aborted, so as to rid the planet of folks with Down Syndrome (or at least lower their numbers). Ok, not in so many words (I’ve chosen more drastic phrasing there)- but the conclusion of all this is really to give women the chance to avoid giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome. This paragraph is interesting:

“What you end up having is a world without people with Down syndrome,” says Paul Root Wolpe, director of the center for ethics at Emory University. “And the question becomes is that a good thing or bad thing?”

An end to Down Syndrome may sound like a good thing, but there’d be no people with cancer if we killed them all upon diagnosis. We could get rid of lots of the “unwanted” struggles in our society. What is happening in this case is not the eradication of a disease like small pox through diagnosis, treatment, and a renewal of health, but the extermination of people because of a disability- Down Syndrome is not a communicable disease. The issue isn’t the ease of screening, but are people screening so they can prepare themselves or finding a way out of the “burden” raising a child facing serious challenges.

But one point I’ve always seen as core to the abortion debate, but often overlooked is not the legislative side. I don’t think the best route for pro-lifers is to appeal to governments. There are laws against murder, theft, rape, speeding, etc. but these still happen. No one I know, or can imagine, would ever abort because they think it’s a good thing. Even the most “liberal” pro-choice advocate isn’t pro-abortion really. Too many people in our culture see abortion as the best option, or a necessary evil for a desperate woman. An ideal situation is not one where abortion is illegal, but where it is unnecessary. What if parents-to-be had the support needed to make abortion no longer the only viable option, or even the best option? What if teen moms who would normally abort because they can’t raise a baby had more options, more support, more care, instead of a mob outside the clinic telling her she’s going to hell? What if we were able to serve moms carrying a baby with Down Syndrome to such an extent that the burden was no longer so daunting that they choose death for their child? What if the burden was carried by us all so that the overwhelmed pregnant woman could bless the world with the presence of her child? Our response shouldn’t be “abortion is wrong, so don’t do it”, but instead, “what can I do to help you so this child can live?”.

I get a little worked up sometimes. Abortion is of course a sensitive topic for so many people. But disabilities is close to home for a variety of reasons. I think a world without some friends I’ve met who have Down Syndrome, Autism, Fragile X or other conditions would be a lesser place.

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