In my last post, Is Down's Syndrome an Issue?, most of the comments I received were supportive of my position. I have found this is not unusual in blogging as we fear causing offence to those we like and are more likely to avoid commenting if we disagree with someone, especially on an emotive subject.
My blogging pal, SafeTinspector, did challenge what I said, however. When I wrote my reply I realised that not only was it much longer than the usual comment reply, but it contained what I felt were fundamental aspects about how I view the world and the issue of Down's Syndrome and pregnancy terminations. Therefore I have repeated his comment and put my reply into this new post instead of the comments.
"According to statistics I keep finding, upwards of 80% to 90% of pregnancies carrying children with Down's Syndrome are terminated."
Kim, I think this probably goes to wether or not you think abortion is murder to begin with, and ends with wether or not someone would voluntarily put themselves in a position to have a permanent dependant.
There may even be flavors of what reasons people have for making babies to begin with. Continuation of the species, contributing useful societal members to the next generation, carrying on the family name, whatever. Most of the traditional reasons for becoming a parent are not necessarily served by having a child with significant learning disabilities.
I can't blame a parent for not wanting to have to go through what you and other downs syndrome parents must go through.
And though you may judbge me for this statement, I must be honest with you: If I knew for a fact that Heather were to bear a child suffering from a major learning disability we would probably choose to terminate as well.
"The human race has an appalling track record of seeking to destroy that which it fears, and what it mostly fears is difference."
I can take this statement two ways. The first is that you are talking about people wanting to kill or hide people suffering from downs syndrome. I can't agree more that this is a societal wrong. Maltreatment of the learning disabled is abhorrent, should be abhorrent to everyone, and should never be tolerated. Neither should coddling, or putting the disabled up on pedastals as if the fact of disability automatically renders one a hero. (Taking care of someone with a disability, Kim, is an automatic hero card)
But the other way to take this statement is that if there were an in vetro cure for downs syndrome you would have chosen not to use it, and would encourage others not to use it. I don't think that's what you really meant though, so I suppose I'm just a bit of a mixer.
There are a lot of things in what you say, but firstly I’d like to say I appreciate your honesty. I know with blogging, when you disagree with someone, especially on an emotive subject, it’s easier not to comment for fear of offending.
On the issues of abortion as murder, this is a big question that could be debated at length. On balance, I do tend to think of it as the killing of life and feel that it is too easy to pretend the unborn child does not count. There are many reasons why a woman may choose to terminate a pregnancy, some of which are more justified than others, but I do not feel that I have the right to impose my will and say no, never. Therefore I remain pro-choice, even if I disagree with many of those choices.
But the bigger issue being dealt with here, is the notion of the right to life of those who are different or perceived to be disabled. The biggest problems are a) where do you draw the line and b) who’s making the decisions and why
Most people’s fears of DS are because they don’t experience it first hand, but are filled with the prejudices and half-truths that come from a society in ignorance. You have mentioned that you suffer from ADHD and will essentially be on the meds for life. So when you talk about people having to cope with those who have special needs, if there had been a womb-diagnosis of the condition at the time, how would it have been if your parents had decided to terminate.
To move it on a further generation, if your daughter is diagnosed with the same condition, would you think to yourself that you wish she’d never been born? I would think that highly unlikely. The fact is you know your daughter for who she is and all the wonderful things about her other than the ADHD (actual or potential).
Likewise, to parents of children with DS, the DS is such a small part of who they are. Would you love a child less because they were born with 4 fingers instead of 5 on one hand? Would you love them less because they were born hard of hearing, short-sighted, gay, had ginger hair or a tendency to vote Republican?
Compared to who the child is as a whole, the perceived disability is a minor thing. This is the case with Down’s Syndrome.
There is no hero card – that in itself is a patronising concept. Are any of us heroes because we want what’s best for our children?
Our society paints a picture of stupid mongs dribbling into their shirts - but it is a false image, an image painted out of fear and ignorance. To my mind it is a prejudice that is as ignorant and insidious as that of those who believe that non-Caucasians are sub-human.
To terminate a pregnancy because the child has DS is to terminate a pregnancy out of fear – fear of the unknown, fear of responsibility, fear of difference, fear of society – all of which, in my eyes, are unjustified.