Alternate title: Do you even realize what you’re saying?
[Disclaimer: Please read this post with the understanding that I don’t desire and won’t participate in a debate. In other words, it’s my blog and I’ll delete if I want to.]
Recently, I was made aware of a blogger named Amy Julia Becker. One of her recent writings dealt with her decision not to undergo prenatal testing, despite having an increased risk of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome (her risk was increased because she already has a daughter with Ds). The post was picked up and reprinted by the New York Times, and is available on their website. A second follow-up post, which deals with the question of whether it is harder to parent a child with Down syndrome, is also available on the NY Times website.
I could relate to Amy Julia’s decision not to test. She stated “prenatal testing more often serves to devalue all human life and to offer parents and doctors an illusion of control” – the same sentiments that I’ve touched on in this blog before. What really struck me, though, were the statements found in the comments section below her writing. While many people were supportive, others emphatically were not. In some cases, people seemed to be commenting based on their own fears about whether they could handle a special child (a completely understandable fear, although I respectfully disagree, as I’ve said before). Much more disturbing to me were the comments criticizing this mother for bringing a child into the world who would be a “burden to society” (one individual even used the term “doomed for life”). Many of these commenters stated unequivocally that they would abort a child diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome.
I sat at my computer for several minutes in tears as I read the comments. I’m not naive, and I know that, despite the great strides our society has made in recent decades, there are going to be people that we encounter that don’t value individuals with disabilities. Sarah Kate will have other kids (and possibly adults) make fun of her because of the way that she walks. Nathan’s telltale facial features will be the first (and possibly only) thing that some people will notice. It’s unlikely that he’ll be a high-powered Harvard graduate attorney. Neither of my children are destined for professional sports careers. Do these commenters really mean that their lives don’t have value?
“The bottom line is that Down’s Syndrome children are also a burden to society.” (comment #73)
“The ones who suffer? The SMART kids. Only a deeply self-destructive society dumps all of its resources into a population that, frankly, isn’t going to show a return on the investment.” (comment #96)
When Nathan was initially diagnosed, my dear friend Katie shared the news (via the web) with many in our circle of running friends. She shared the open letter to family and friends that I ended up posting to my blog later, but she also added her own sentiment: “Personally I think that God, knowing how special Baby N truly was, gave him the chance to choose his own family and he chose Andi and Mr. Andi knowing what wonderfully loving and patient parents they are.” I have no idea if God gave Nathan the chance to pick his own parents, but if he did, I am so glad he picked us instead of commenter #78. We certainly aren’t perfect, but we excel in a critical area: we value him.