Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Inflammatory! At least to me.

I received an Email today entitled "Down Syndrome and Abortion". There is, in case you don't know, a movement afoot in the DS community that is against the recent proposed mandates for increased and mandatory prenatal testing. Specifically, those in the community are opposed to testing for DS (obviously) because it is one of the genetic abnormalities that is most frequently diagnosed, and many babies with DS are aborted.

I am pro choice. I have always been pro choice. I am violently pro choice. And having a child with DS does not change that one whit. Yes, I love my son more than anything in this world. Yes, I chose to have him rather than not have him. BUT...a baby with DS...a child with DS is a Huge responsibility (as any baby is) and I think that if someone feels that they cannot handle that, it is their CHOICE, based on their lifestyle, to be able to not have that child. It is not my place to tell them otherwise.

The Email spoke of "arming" potential new parents with information that is presented "lovingly and gently" about what life with a child with DS is really like. I am all for this. I think that we should be educating the PUBLIC in GENERAL about this, not using the information to "scare" new parents into a decision.

Why do I say scare? Here's why. Let me digress.

A recent article in Time (read it at,9171,1590444,00.html) discusses the new movement in "crisis pregnancy centers", which centers on "loving, gentle" information giving. Many of these centers are using ultrasound machines to allow mothers considering abortion to see their fetuses, name their fetuses, and know the sex of their fetuses. Consdier this with me: Lula Mae, 15, is in the back seat of a car with a boy. She knows she doesn't want to have sex, but there she is in the heat of the moment, and it will feel she does. She makes a split-second decision which changes her life, without considering all of the things she has always been taught or all the things she always thought she would do. Because she hasn't had appropriate sex education (maybe she has, but let's consider for a moment that she hasn't), she doesn't use a condom. She gets pregnant. So she goes to this crisis center, and a very nice nurse hooks her up to an ultrasound machine, and shows her the baby. Now, Lula Mae has no job, she doesn't have a very good education (still being in high school), and her parents will throw her out of the house if they find out she is pregnant. She intends to not have this baby. But then, in a FLOOD OF EMOTION, CAUGHT UP IN THE MOMENT, looking at the tiny blurry image, she changes her mind. When she regains her senses, she is too far along to do anything about it. People would argue otherwise, but really, both decisions that Lula Mae has made are based on emotion, the moment she is caught up in. Take Lula Mae and replace her with a wife who is abused, a single mother who has no family to speak of, two people who have no family and no jobs, two successful people who are so self centered they can't care for a dog, much less a baby. The situation remains basically the same. Decisions based on emotion rather than logic.

Where is education? Where is information about birth control? Where are programs designed to help our daughters be confident enough to not feel as if they have to get in the back of the car in the first place?

But, as I said, I digress.

In my mind, it is just as bad to HAVE a baby that you are unprepared for, or are unsure about (I know that all new parents are unsure, I mean a baby with a disability you never planned on) and not want to take care of it as it is to be (to some people) to abort that baby. I was worried when I first met parents at the DS group that some of them would be religious wing nuts that use DS as a platform for their anti-abortion views. We need to put our energy into educating the PUBLIC AS A WHOLE about life with DS, life as a parent of a DS child, and how wonderful it can be.

Pregnant mothers have enough to worry about without having someone talk them into a baby after they have just heard what may well be the most devistating news of their lives. It is a PRIVATE decision. If some stranger came to me and started talking to me the week I found out about my son, I think I would have slugged them. Finding out you have a child with a disability is, believe me, devastating. No matter how much you love that child, no matter what the eventual outcome is, it is devastating. When I found out and began to consider my options, I felt so much stigma at even considering not having the child it was just fuel for my emotional fire. In the end, hubby and I knew we could do this. We were confident that we were ready for anything, and so my son IS. I am lucky to have him.

But I am more lucky that it was my CHOICE.

People are afraid of information. They are afraid of information about sex, about STD's, about birth control. Jesus, information is not a bad thing. If someone has information based on prenatal testing about their child, then they can make CHOICES. They can prepare for life with this child. They can prepare to welcome the child, or they can choose not to, if that is right for them.

In the end, it is always a choice. Being afraid to make it doesn't make it go away. Being afraid that others will not make the same choice as you does not make the choices go away. It just makes them harder to make. I reset that others will make life harder for someone whom they have never met and don't know.

I don't want to be flippant about people having children. People have, or don't have, kids for all kinds of reasons, and often those reasons are complicated. I look forward to a world where we can live and let live. Let's support those who need it, let's recognize that their decisions may be more complex than ours. There is no need to judge another for what they do, even if that decision is different from yours. Yes, children are beautiful. They are precious. They are valuable. But so are other people. There are people all over living lives that are far simpler than mine, and people living lives that are far harder. Who am I to tell them what is right or wrong for their situation?

I just get so worked up about stuff like this.

1 comment:

Mac said...

Great post! I work in reproductive rights as a fundraiser, and someone I know just recently tried to corner me about abortion and Down's Syndrome children. It was a weird situation. Basically, I gave her an answer similar to what you wrote [minus actually having had the experience you do].