This is a rerun from 2006. Long time readers: Try to look surprised.
If you haven’t seen the video and story of the boy with autism who got to play in a high school basketball game and proceeded to score 20 points in 3 minutes, you need to watch it. It is truly inspiring.
When I watched this, I couldn’t help but think about the bizarre extremes our society goes to when it comes to the disabled. Consider all the positive and noble things done for the disabled:
- Handicapped parking spaces, accessibility to buildings, etc.
- Celebration of their accomplishments in events like the Special Olympics and the story above
- Countless technological aids to help them use computers and work
- Fund raisers and ministries to find cures and to provide care and encouragement
Yet what is society’s general attitude towards unborn humans who may be disabled when born? The current climate is that it is OK, and often preferable, to kill them before they are born. For example, abortion occurs roughly 90% of the time in pregnancies where Down Syndrome is diagnosed. Some babies are even aborted for correctable problems like club feet or cleft palates.
Jocylen Elder, former Surgeon General of the U.S. said abortion “has had an important and positive public-health effect” because it reduced “the number of children afflicted with severe defects.” She pointed out that “the number of Down Syndrome infants in Washington state in 1976 was 64 percent lower than it would have been without legal abortion.” She meant this as a victory of sorts, but what message does this send to the disabled and their families?
Of course we don’t wish medical problems on anyone. There is always an element of tragedy when they occur. Yet what about all the joy and life lessons they bring? And disabled people are less likely to commit suicide, so they aren’t necessarily less happy. We may rationalize that we are “helping” them, but who are we really trying to help?
- How long will it be until insurance companies pressure people to abort potentially disabled humans?
- If autism could be detected in utero as Down Syndrome is, how many fewer autistic people would be with us?
- I know several people who were encouraged by their doctors to have abortions because problems were suspected. Yet the children in question are alive and healthy!
I wrote about prenatal testing for Down Syndrome and one of our World Vision sponsor children who has it here.
Further reading on how our culture is continuing to warp: A Perfect Child