What message does abortion send the disabled? We are continuing our series on the Church and its relationship with the disabled. In our last post, we talked about the false idea that aborting the disabled reduces pain and suffering. In this post, we’ll look at the underlying message that is sent to people with disabilities when people advocate for the disabled to be aborted.
Iceland Eliminates Down Syndrome
There was a story that was put out about a year ago that made an extraordinary claim. The claim was that Iceland had virtually eliminated Down Syndrome in their country. As someone that has a Down Syndrome brother, this news came as a shock to me. I wondered what medical breakthrough had been made in Iceland that would help them cure the disorder.
As it turned out of course, Iceland hadn’t made a medical breakthrough that allowed them to cure Down Syndrome. They were simply doing prenatal testing, and then aborting any child that had the indicators for Down Syndrome. You can see the subtle slight of hand here. This was not a brilliant medical breakthrough. It was actually a return to the past.
What’s That Word? Eugenics?
Many of you probably thought of the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s when saw my description of what was occurring in Iceland. That would be an accurate comparison. However, the sad fact is that selectively killing those thought to be inferior either mentally or physically was one that was popular in the United States long before Germany decided to live out the practice. The name this philosophy was given here in the States was Eugenics.
Eugenics is the idea that we can improve the human race by selectively weeding out those that are physically or mentally inferior to “Normal” people. And by “weeding out”, I mean through forced sterilization and abortion.
This system was the brainchild of Francis Galton (16 February 1822 – 17 January 1911). While the ideas around eugenics have existed since the time of Plato, it was Galton that began to popularize the idea in the modern age. Inspired by Charles Darwin, he envisioned improving the human race through breeding of the more socially elite members of society. Any of this sounding familiar?
What’s The Message?
Let’s fast forward a bit to the modern day and our story about Iceland. Iceland made the decision that it would be better to kill someone in the womb than to allow them to live with a disability. And that determination was made based solely on the possibility that there might be a genetic anomaly. Notice that this is the only factor in the decision-making process. It’s not the humanity of the unborn that’s in question. It’s the idea that they may not live what others would consider a fulfilling life.
Which leads me to my original question. What message does abortion send to the disabled? It seems to send the message that their lives are not worth as much as those that are fully abled. People may balk at that assertion, but I would challenge you to show me how it’s wrong.
Oddly, we have made great strides in how we treat people with disabilities once they are born. We as a society are doing a much better job of accepting and caring for these individuals. But, and it’s a big but, we still do not send a message that their lives are as valuable as the fully abled.
There was another story that I heard of recently. Parents of a Down Syndrome child were suing their doctor for “Wrongful Birth”. The parents claimed that the pre-natal testing they had done failed to detect Down Syndrome in their child. They argued that if they had known of the genetic anomaly, they would have aborted their child. Keep in mind, the child was alive and in their care when they were arguing their case in court.
I couldn’t help but feel for this child. What must it be like to be raised by parents that thought you would be better off dead? How could any loving parents think this? I can tell you as a parent, sometimes we get mad and frustrated. Our children will do things that can absolutely drive us crazy. But never in my wildest dreams would I ever wish they hadn’t been born. It’s simply unthinkable.
This is an extreme case to be sure. Most people will not have someone actively telling them that they should never have been born. But isn’t this the not too subtle message being sent to the disabled? “Your life is a burden. You’d be better off if you had never been born. What you’re going through isn’t worth it. I wouldn’t want to live like that”. These are all phrases I’ve heard directed at disabled people. And it simply must have an effect on their psyche.
Two Types Of Humans
You see, we have managed to once again create two types of human beings. Those that have human rights that must be protected, and those that do not. Those that do not can be killed by those that do for any reason whatsoever.
As I mentioned at the outset of this series, I was inspired by a book I have been reading, Disney and Philosophy. The chapter that caught my attention was one on how Disney has portrayed the disabled in their movies throughout the years. One of the more intriguing thoughts that came to me when I reading the chapter was the idea of what it means to be a “Whole Human”.
What is it that gives us human rights? What exactly is a whole human being? These are ideas I’ll be exploring in my next post.
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