Moral schizophrenia

carenet-walk-05-55.jpgIf 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?

Parting thoughts:

  • 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

12 thoughts on “Moral schizophrenia”

  1. I agree. A short while ago a female Church of England minister took doctors to court over their decision to abort a child with cleft palete, a completely remeediable condition – indeed she had been born with one and had had it surgically corrected. She lost, of course, but I think put down a marker that would make it less likely that a doctor would do it again. Next in line would be hare lip, a condition which does not even prevent a person from becoming a famous film star (witness Joaquim Phoenix).

    Incidentally, I see you have bought into the fashion for dropping the ‘s for eponymous medical conditions. It is certainly recommended by the Council of Biological Editors Manual on Scientific Style and Format, but I have yet to see anyone talk about Hodgkin disease rather than Hodgkin’s disease, or Wilm tumor rather than Wilm’s tumor.

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  2. Thanks for the background on the ‘s topic. When I wrote this I double checked the spelling. I always thought it was Downs or Down’s, but whatever site I looked at just had Down. I was just accidentally in fashion.

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  3. While I’m somewhat to the Left of you on the abortion topic, I’m probably not that far left. And it is positively horrifying to hear that Elder was citing a reduction of Down babies (due to abortion) as a positive thing!

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  4. “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.”

    Wow. That is down right tragic.

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  5. A 10 year old girl at our church recently passed away. She had Sanfillippo Syndrome and had been wheel chair bound for (almost?) her entire life.

    You can read her obituary at http://www.greenvilleonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080610/NEWS01/806100365/1001/NEWS01.

    The local paper had a much more detailed article, sorry I can’t find it online. If ever you doubt, you should look into this little girl’s life story. The family website seems to be down, it’s called “laurenshope.org”

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  6. I suppose the next step is like in North Korea:

    “North Korea has no people with physical disabilities because they are killed almost as soon as they are born, a physician who defected from the communist state said on Wednesday.”

    “The practice is encouraged by the state, Ri said, as a way of purifying the masses and eliminating people who might be considered “different.” ”

    http://www.xerraireart.com/blog/2006/03/22/there-are-no-people-with-physical-defects-in-north-korea/

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  7. “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. ”

    I know of a couple through my church who were told that their baby would most likely be severely handicapped and were advised by their doctor to abort the child. They were horrified – not at the prospect of a handicapped child, but at the doctor for suggesting they murder their child. They refused, got a new doctor, and had a healthy baby boy some months later.

    Doctors aren’t God and shouldn’t play God.

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