This Is A Person.

For the moment, I’m not debating whether abortion should ever be a choice. And I hope you will never hear me condemn a woman who has already made it hers. For the moment, all I want to say is that a prognosis of disability does not make an abortion better or more legitimate. Since I’ve announced my pregnancy, I’ve been amazed by the number of folks who have casually asked me, “If the amnio is bad will you terminate?”

It’s sad when the word “terminate” is a euphemism; it’s so ominous in itself. But in this case it’s a gentler phrase for what they really mean. What they really mean, standing in the Starbucks line or on the light rail or over my cell phone, is “You’ll probably kill this child if he is disabled, right?” Asked by a co-worker in a more casual tone than I recently heard her discuss euthanizing her dog. Asked by a friend, who knows my brother is disabled, as if asking what color the nursery will be in the event I don’t decide to play God. Asked by any number of good, decent, nice people who you wouldn’t expect to pass a death sentence just because someone is disabled. Even asked by legislators charged with promoting justice and doctors whose “care” should include a reminder that panic is not a basis for decision-making.

This question and its tone, its prevalence, unearth the roots of discrimination against disabled people: that truthfully, those asking would be okay with it if such people weren’t allowed to live at all. For the sake of everyone’s comfort I won’t get hysterical and make genocide comparisons. But please, don’t assume this question won’t offend me. For it very much does.

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16 Comments

  1. anne said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Make genocide comparisons. Valid. So Brave New Worldish the questions posed to you are. Dustin would respond, “EAT DIRT”.

    .
    BTw, a quick search of BRAVE NEW WORLD comes ups with this : The ironic title comes from Miranda’s speech in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act V, Scene I:
    “O wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind is!
    O brave new world
    That hath such people in’t!”

  2. May 1, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Wow. Great post.

  3. Kelly, Jenelle's Mom said,

    May 1, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    This is one of the reasons I am scared to death to have another child (after already having one with severe disabilities.) While I know that my SN child is a gift from God, I am also torn with the issue of her (or a future child’s) quality of life. While the art of medicine has advanced enough that talk of “termination” is so casual, doesn’t it also go the other way? Where life that once didn’t survive is now living beyond expectations because of medical advances? And sometimes, those disabled children live in pain all their lives.

    I honestly think each situation is different, and should be decided individually. Then again, where has our society gone when people feel free to ask such a question so very bluntly. That is way out of line.

    Excellent post!

  4. Ira Socol said,

    May 1, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I’m not going to get into an abortion debate – but I remember when my then-wife was pregnant with our child I just said “no” to all the genetic (etc) analyses. “It presupposes,” I said, “that we’d terminate the pregnancy if there were “problems,” and I won’t do that.”

  5. Jocelyn Tichenor said,

    May 1, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Society does not understand the meaning (or the challenge) to life – it is to find the good things that can be in life in spite of a disability. The old cliche is: everything happens for a reason. Had I not been born with cerebral palsy, I would not have gotten to experience the awesome things that life has to offer. Life is good!

  6. Amanda said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Yes, some of us live in pain all our lives.

    I’m very well-acquainted with pain, having several of the pretty nasty kinds of it (trigeminal neuralgia since I was 12, some kind of more widespread neurological pain since forever, to give two examples that aren’t exactly minor), and having lived with chronic pain since I can remember.

    I have a friend online who had multiple surgeries starting when she was born, often without proper anesthesia or pain control because children, and especially babies, were thought not to feel pain back then. And her condition itself has caused a huge amount of pain, given that it has often involved some pretty serious organ malfunctions (I think her generation is the first to have even survived to adulthood with her condition). (And I have a good friend in person who had no pain control after having her entire spine fused, for the same “children feel no pain” reason.) And many others who can say similar things, with various different conditions, all of which cause some of the most severe forms of pain.

    All of us find the idea pretty offensive that, because we’ve lived in pain our entire lives, and severe pain at that, then there’s nothing else to us. That the existence of pain would negate everything good there is about our existence. That if our pain levels could be somehow divined before our births, then people ought to have made a decision that we shouldn’t have existed. And that the existence of people like us, and like other people who deal with severe pain their entire lives, is in some way trotted out as a thing expectant mothers should fear when they find out their child will be disabled, and possibly fear it so much that the child will be aborted based on that fear.

    Some of us, by the way, are pro-choice, others are pro-life, others are something without a handy little name by it on that issue. But we all seem to agree, at least, on that. And even the most pro-choice of us, who believe there’s no ethical way to just somehow outlaw this sort of thing without doing even more harm than good, are to say the least not comfortable with the notion that disability in the child is a good reason to abort a child (if one weren’t already planning on it) to ‘spare them of future pain’ as if a person who doesn’t exist would even be around to appreciate the gesture.

  7. Barbara said,

    May 1, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    You make it so clear that you believe abortion is taking life and life is from God.

    It’s sad that you felt you had to declare yourself non-judgemental in the second sentence. Your effort to not offend euphamism-others supports the belief that killing life before birth is on the level of personal choice and casual conversation.

    The BADD post on eugenics is very good, and I point everyone in that direction to continue thoughts on this topic.

  8. DotComMom said,

    May 1, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Barbara, I agree with you that the BADD post on eugenics is fantastic. For convenience of the readers here is the URL: http://thespecialparent.com/2008/05/01/eugenics-in-todays-society/

    The issue of personal condemnation is for another day, and as far as I’m concerned, for another Person. My motivation is to speak the truth in kindness, especially with regard to a practice that has left so many people broken and hurting.

    Thank you for stopping by. I hope you will return!

  9. Lisa said,

    May 2, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Hi, came here from BADD.

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I am a disabled mom. And my partner is a disabled father. My disability (deafblindness) could be passed on. My partner’s is an SCI, not genetic of course, but a lot of people don’t know that by looking at him.

    I can’t TELL you how many people asked me how I could become pregnant if there was a possibility of passing our disabilities on. And I can’t tell you how many people asked about the amniocentesis as they did with you. While we stood right there, disabled ourselves. The question is really this: If your child happens to be disabled like you, will you kill it? Will you kill it if he is as horrifying as you are? Because obviously your lives aren’t worth living.”

    I did not even get amnio or the quad screen. I did do noninvasive things like u/s and blood work, etc. I didn’t want to deal with the perceptions of others, the pressures, the expectations, if the results indicated a disability. I was SO HAPPY to be pregnant. No one was going to ruin that for me. We would just deal with whatever we were dealt with the babies.

    Now, I have two healthy twin boys. And people STILL COMMENT on how great it is that our boys (so far appear) not to have any disabilities. God forbid they be like mom or dad. I am happy that they are healthy because it means an easier life for them. But if they had been born disabled, I would have been happy then, too. And I know, from my own first hand experience, that they would have had happy, productive, gratifying lives.

    Sorry to go off on my life story, but it is not often I have a forum to do this and say, Thank you for getting this.

  10. May 2, 2008 at 4:36 am

    […] DotComMom: This is a person […]

  11. Barbara said,

    May 2, 2008 at 4:57 am

    There is a place between condemnation and relinquishing judgement publicly. It is not to say anything at all. Imagine your post sans the sentence that begins “And I hope…” I ask people to stop apologizing for believing killing before birth is wrong.

  12. DotComMom said,

    May 2, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Lisa,

    All I can say is GIRL! Go on with your life story!! I welcome it. Like you I blew off the diagnostics, for the same reasons. Having a disabled sibling has only enriched my life, I am certain that the same is true for your twins!! Thank you so much for posting. 🙂

  13. DotComMom said,

    May 2, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Barbara,

    I don’t feel sorry for opposing abortion, but I do maintain deep compassion for women who have chosen it, especially women who I don’t even know that are reading an anonymous blog during any number of unknown circumstances. So maybe our rhetorical aims are different. But I don’t disagree with you – and I would welcome you to keep elaborating here. I really appreciate the commentary.

  14. DotComMom said,

    May 2, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Everyone: Thank you so much for sharing your stories and links to your blogs. I am grateful to hear your perspectives.

  15. Barbara said,

    May 2, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    You have won my continued interest in your blog (you). Since you asked, here’s more….

    This post is classic for trying not to offend, complying with standards set by people we do not agree with. First you have the photo of a child before birth, beautiful and inarguably a live human. Then you state you don’t want to debate abortion. Whew, safe for all pro-abortion persons to read on. Safe for all secretly anti-abortion persons to read on. No one wants to see that debate here. “And I hope you will never hear me condemn a woman who has already made it hers.” You hope. Not even sure yourself if you can’t not condemn, but you hope. I do call that sentence apologetic. Perhaps this is the means to draw all readers in, but I think you could have started at “Since I’ve announced my pregnancy…

    Congratulations, by the way. And blessings on you and your family. My youngest is 15, and I was offered amnio several times during my pregnancy with her, me at age 37. We refused – same as Ira said above. Only recently did I realize that these physicians might have had reasons to persuade mothers to kill unborn children with chromosomal diagnoses. I was treated (well) in a government medical system, and future costs might have entered into the milieu of thought on amnio and its purposes.

    Killing a baby before birth because she has been identified with a chromosomal diagnosis is disablism. Nothing legitimizes abortion. The eugenics crowd, now called pro-choice have done a great job of convincing a lot of America that abortion is a right. The statistics on aborted children with DS should set all persons with disabilities on fire with advocacy.

    I think all women who have had an abortion have been duped, nay, assaulted by the pro-choicers. I’m sympathetic to them and have worked with some to help them heal. But I think by consistently coupling this supposed non-judgemental sympathy with every single discussion of abortion works for the other side. Not one single post-abortion woman is helped by declaring non-condemnation. Lots of women who will consider abortion might benefit if there was less non-condemnation. Maybe a little condemnation would cause them to pause and question the “choices”.

    “If the amnio is bad will you terminate?” It’s bait, and I hope you bite it, chew it up and spit it out the next time it’s offered. The audacity! Thank you, very much, sincerely.

  16. DotComMom said,

    May 3, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Barbara,

    Once again thank you for an active conversation. Thanks also for your congratulations on my pregnancy. To summarize the root of our disagreement, I simply do not believe that I have authority to pass condemnation on others. This is because I believe in the God described in the Bible. Everywhere we look in the Bible, from the example of Joseph in Genesis to the parables of Jesus in the gospels and the warnings of Paul in Romans, we can learn that it is God who is perfect and sovereign and therefore entitled to judge the sins of people. We can also learn that He intends to do so and that we, as finite and sinful people, are totally unqualified for the job. I simply just don’t have jurisdiction over the case of random person vs. God.

    I do believe in moral absolutes and I do believe it is possible for me to draw conclusions about right and wrong based on the truths of the Bible. Based on this belief it is possible for me to counsel a friend or speak on public policy about a number of moral issues including the sanctity of life. But there is a difference between opining about morality, or even fighting for it, and passing ultimate judgment of condemnation over individuals based on their sins or what I might perceive to be their sins. In my humbler (and therefore better) moments I must admit that any point on which I try to judge another person applies to me in some shade as well. So, although there is a great natural temptation to pass personal judgment even on small disputable matters (let alone big moral ones), I do hope to resist it.

    Incidentally I do think that if having the better argument or speaking words of condemnation were solutions to the abortion problem it would have ended long ago. There is no logically defensible way to celebrate abortion and words of hatred have long been spewed at those who try. My personal hope is that a loving approach which upholds the dignity of all people, including not only the unborn but also those many millions of women who find themselves in distress, will make a difference in this regard.

    I don’t claim to have the corner on truth though; maybe you and I have different callings. I really do appreciate your commentary.

    DCM


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