Prenatal testing and reproductive rights

Eliza alerted me to the fact that there's some discussion going on at Double X about late-term abortions. It started as a series of articles about the truth behind late-term abortions; in response to the death of Dr. George Tiller, the magazine wanted to allow women who've had late-term abortions to discuss their experiences as a way of cutting through all the anti-choice hysteria. It quickly progressed, however, into a discussion of whether or not it's a good idea to abort all fetuses identified as having Down syndrome. Some quotes from the articles:

The answer to the last question, by the way, is yes.

Commenters have gotten all hyped up--I didn't read all the comments but skimmed through enough to see that people were all over the place. But there were a number of commenters who discussed what a huge burden disabled folks put on families and how unfair it is to the families, and the babies themselves, not to have prenatal testing and not to abort disabled fetuses.

I will have more thoughts on this, but here are three things I would like to say today:
  1. The right to terminate a pregnancy is incredibly important. A woman's whole life is affected by a pregnancy and a child, and if we want women to be allowed to be fully human, we must allow them the right to abortion.
  2. Many times decisions about abortion are difficult and complex, but the woman involved (with her partner, if applicable) is the best able to make that decision. Even if we might disagree with her decision, no one else--no individual, no institution, no agency--is better able to weigh all the factors and make that decision.
  3. People need real information about life with a disabled child in order to make the best decision they can about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. At this point I think what they're getting is a lot of hype, stereotype, and misinformation. If the Double X comments are any indication, people out there seem to believe that having a child with Down syndrome will be the end of life as you know it. Everything will change for the worse, and you will rue the day you didn't abort. I thought those things when we had Maybelle. My experience as her mom so far, and my far broader understanding of life with Down syndrome, shows me how wrong I was.
I'm offended by the defensiveness I see in these articles and many of the comments. I get the sense that these folks want to justify their own decisions by making sure everybody knows how awful it would be to live with a child who was intellectually and developmentally delayed. I support their right to make their own choices about their pregnancies, but when they start talking about the burden that disabled people put on families and on the state, then they are actually making the world a worse place for my daughter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The strongest argument in keeping abortion legal is not, in my opinion, any of those listed in the above post. Rather, abortion should be legal because to do otherwise would be to infringe on a woman's right to privacy and "equal protection under the law," (as stated in Roe v. Wade).

With this idea, I am reminded of a great bumper sticker from "Now" : "keep your laws off my body."

I think it is entirely possible that individuals who are born with disabilities become a burden on the state due to the fact that they may not be able to work when they are older, the fact that they may require physical therapy or other kinds of therapies to assist them with their developmental needs, and other similar reasons, but the frenzied nature of the comments in the magazine scare me. It sounds like they are just one step away from advocating premise of the movie "Gattaca," in which individuals are genetically engineered to be "superior" beings, and those that do not cut the bill are relegated to menial tasks.