When she got a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, her doctor wouldn’t stop suggesting abortion.

The author and her family.


Kaylen
Before Kaylen, my husband Darrin and I were happy to be average—to not stick out in a good or bad way. Darrin worked as a mental health clinician in a prison; I had quit teaching after our second child and was running an in-home daycare. Our two sons were school age, our daughter was still home with me, and we had just started considering a fourth child when I took a positive pregnancy test.

I was 35 and had two prior miscarriages, so my doctor considered mine a higher risk pregnancy. During the first ultrasound my daughter was amazingly active and I thought “Whoa—something is different with this kiddo.” I loved the chances to see her on ultrasound and hear her heartbeat, and she grew and measured as expected. Everything was proceeding in the average way we were comfortable with.

Since I was now of “advanced maternal age,” in the second trimester the doctor recommended a triple screen blood test. I felt that any additional information was helpful, so I agreed. Not long after, I received an almost tearful phone call from a nurse who said “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but your blood test shows elevated risk. We’re sending you to a perinatologist for more information.” She apologized repeatedly and sounded so upset that I ended up reassuring her that it would be okay. Some quick internet searches told me that false positive results for the triple screen were relatively high. In fact I had two friends who had received positive results only for their babies to be born without issues. They reassured me that it would all be fine and suggested I just enjoy a 4D ultrasound.

I went into the office of the perinatologist (I will call him Dr. X) fully prepared to receive good news and leave with some great pictures. I enjoyed the 4D ultrasound—I got to relax in a darkened room and see my baby in more detail. The technician measured body parts while answering all my questions about what she was doing. When she finished, she went to get Dr. X. He entered the room, and I knew something was wrong as soon as he started with “Unfortunately…”

They found that she had some “soft markers” for Down syndrome, such as shortened long bones and fluid in a certain part of her brain. I still wasn’t clear on the odds; I thought she had perhaps a 1 in 300 chance of having Ds, but Dr. X said it was more like 1 in 4. That was when I knew our life would be different. She might not even survive to birth, and if she did, my husband and I would join the alien group of “parents of children with disabilities.” The doctor gave me a long list of negative health conditions involved with Down syndrome and emphasized that carrying a baby with Ds increased my risk of miscarriage. He emphasized it shouldn’t be hard for me to get immediately pregnant after an abortion if I wanted to “try again for a normal baby.”

I hate uncertainty, so I asked about getting an amnio to find out for sure. Dr. X said there were three reasons people had amnios: if they (1) were considering terminating (I shook my head and said “We’re not going to do that”), (2) would be too stressed out by the uncertainty (“Yup, that’s me”), or (3) would change medical and birth plans based on the information, for example switching hospitals or doctors (“Yup, me again.”). He discussed the risks, including the risk of miscarriage, but also said he had never had a patient miscarry because of an amnio, and he had done thousands of them. I said “Well, this is still my first.” Still he said he could do it during that same visit, so I began filling out the paperwork. He emphasized that if I did decide to terminate, we’d need to find out quickly because I was nearing the cutoff date. I told him flatly that there was no way we were going to kill our child. He performed the amnio and said they had to mail the sample to the lab and we should have the results in about a week.

I rushed from the building to my car and burst into sobs. I felt as if everything comfortable and sure in my life was gone. My joy in carrying my baby was now replaced with stress and worry. I was angry at myself for needing the reassurance of the amnio, but I also had the grieving thought “Well maybe if she does have Ds and I miscarry, that would be sad but okay,” followed by the question “What if she doesn’t have Ds and I cause her to miscarry because I wanted to know for sure?” I was sickened and ashamed that I would even think that way, as if somehow her life was worth more if she had the typical number of chromosomes and less if she had one extra.

Eventually I was able to stop crying long enough to call Darrin, but when he answered I couldn’t even speak. I burst into tears again. He said “Oh wow. It didn’t go well.” I gulped “I think she has it. I did the amnio.” He said “She? It’s a girl?” I only then realized the doctor had referred to our baby as “her” when we hadn’t yet known the gender. I had been too preoccupied with thoughts of how our life was going to change in so many unknown ways. I asked Darrin “What are we going to do?” and he calmly answered, “Well, we’re going to love our daughter.” And suddenly I didn’t feel so alone in our new reality.

I collected myself and drove to a friend’s house. I told her about the testing and the amnio and she said “I trust a mom’s intuition about these things. Do you think she has it?” I admitted that I thought so. Somehow, admitting it to someone other than my husband gave me peace. She hugged me. We moved on to conversation about childhood memories and had a wonderful visit. Being able to mix conversations about my disabled child with “every day” topics was just what I needed—it was the beginning of adjusting to my new normal.

Over the next few days, Darrin and I researched Down syndrome as we prepared for how our lives might change. We picked out her name and kept our new secret from the world. Two days after the amnio, Dr. X called with the results. He again began the conversation with “unfortunately,” but actually finding out for sure that our daughter had Down syndrome made me smile. Now we had information and could move forward. Dr. X reiterated that if we wanted to terminate, we had to get scheduled quickly. I told him to stop mentioning abortion because we weren’t going to kill our child, and he responded that he just wanted to make sure that we knew all of our options.

My next perinatologist appointment was for a fetal echocardiogram to see if our daughter was in the 50% of children with Ds who need heart surgery. I was excited again, though with more caution. The technician did her work, but this time when the perinatologist entered, it was a different man (I will call him Dr. Y). As soon as Dr. Y walked in he congratulated me on my daughter. His response was a beautiful reminder that I was carrying a little person and not just a list of medical problems. He said that he had a sister with Ds and that raising a child with Ds would be more similar than different from raising our other children. He made sure we had a good support system and plenty of resources, and he invited us to an upcoming Walk for Ds fundraiser.

Dr. Y showed me the same list of medical issues that Dr. X had emphasized, but this time Dr. Y also pointed out that people with Ds don’t end up with all of these issues; some have just a few and some have more. He suggested we try not to focus on the negatives, pointing out that even ‘typical’ children have medical issues and parents just deal with them as they come up. He said those challenges do not define the child, and each person with Ds is an individual with his or her own talents, skills, and interests. Dr. Y’s support and encouragement made all the difference. He made us feel as if we had been accepted into an elite group: the group of people who know and love someone with Down syndrome.

We told our immediate family of Kaylen’s diagnosis but waited a bit to make a public announcement. Some family members prayed that Kaylen would be healed of her bonus chromosome before she was born. I believe that they were trying to be supportive and helpful, and that there response came from lack of experience with Ds and a desire to spare us from extra challenges that her diagnosis would bring. We told them we were okay with her having Ds, and asked them to change their prayers.

The rest of the pregnancy involved some poignant and pointed moments mixed in with everyday life. An online friend who had recently had a daughter with Ds signed me up for a statewide Ds group that sent a large box of information, resources, and books. I dug through it feeling thankful for all the resources, and then happy cried when I found an adorable little pink dress at the bottom. It was nice to have others acknowledge the ‘sweet little baby girl’ part of the pregnancy. At one point I sat in the doctor’s waiting room while another pregnant mama loudly spoke on the phone, telling someone how hugely relieved she was to have “passed” the test and learned her baby didn’t have Down syndrome. From time to time people would ask if we were going to find out the gender or didn’t have a preference “as long as it’s healthy.” How do I answer when I know most people wouldn’t consider my baby “healthy”?

It took us some time to decide how to announce Kaylen’s diagnosis—we didn’t want it to be her defining characteristic but also didn’t want to suggest we were hiding or ashamed of it. We announced on social media that our daughter would be born with an extra chromosome. There were a few “I’m so sorry” comments but overall the support and congratulations were encouraging.

I found a lot of support. I learned of old friends who also had children with disabilities, and our pediatrician connected me with two local moms of children with Ds. We also joined statewide and national Ds groups to hear perspectives from people with experience. And through online parent support groups, I connected with new friends from around the world who were in the same situation I was. To my surprise, the majority of comments in these groups were celebrating successes and offering support and encouragement. Most of these moms considered themselves part of “the lucky few,” and the most frequent challenge seemed to be trying to get society to value people with differences, especially those with visible cognitive disabilities.

My pregnancy continued with increased monitoring. We switched to a hospital that had an OB/GYN who specialized in high-risk pregnancies and a NICU so we wouldn’t be separated if Kaylen needed extra help after she was born. The OB/GYN was scheduled for vacation on Kaylen’s due date, so we scheduled an induction the day before. The drive to the hospital felt like a sweet farewell to our life’s familiarity and a journey into the unknown, but it wasn’t so scary as long as we were together.

I had read that babies with Ds sometimes have trouble nursing, so I chose not to have an epidural which might make her more sleepy and less likely to latch. I was induced and Kaylen was born 3 hours later. While they were cleaning her up and giving her oxygen, the nurses sang her “Happy Birthday” and my heart nearly burst with joy.

The next few years were more ‘typical’ than we originally expected. There were more medical appointments that first year, but we took each one as they came and learned as we went. One difference between raising Kaylen versus our other children was how we celebrated more of the little things. Milestones and accomplishments were HUGE because of all the step-by-step work it took to reach them. We also felt more relaxed and free to not keep up with anyone else. Of course, there were and still are some twinges of grief when we see a gap between where her peers’ development and her own. We try to embrace the idea that “comparison is the thief of joy,” but there are still moments of grief over the loss of the way that we thought life would be and over moments when people see her only for her disability, instead of getting to know her as a unique person.

Lilly
Still, overall the gap between Dr. X’s grim outlook and our joyful experiences inspired us to support other people in our situation. We decided to get our foster care license specifically to accept children with Ds. We were told it was highly unlikely a child with Ds would come into our foster care region, so we also got a private adoption home study and we registered with NDSAN (National Down Syndrome Adoption Network). NDSAN counsels families who receive a prenatal Ds diagnosis; it also matches families who want to adopt a child with Ds to such children available for adoption. NDSAN’s goal is to ensure every child born with Down syndrome has the opportunity to grow up in a loving family. We waded through paperwork and training and then waited… and waited. After about a year we began considering looking for another way to help, but then the phone rang and NSDAN appeared on our caller ID.

I felt like I had stopped breathing. I answered, and the voice on the other end said, “It’s a girl!” We had been matched with a baby girl to be born the following month in a neighboring state. We waited in nervous anticipation until we got the call asking if we could pick up our daughter.

When Lilly was placed in my arms, I wasn’t prepared for my reaction. I felt the same amazing love for her that I felt at the birth of our biological children, but I simultaneously felt heartbreak and overwhelming loss for Lilly’s birth mom. She chose a family she felt could better navigate caring for a child with Down syndrome; the magnitude of her love for her child still brings me to tears. We have since learned that adoption is not simply placing a child with parents, but actually melding two families. We feel as though we also adopted Lilly’s first parents. They love her fiercely, and we keep connected through email and social media.

I wholeheartedly believe our family is better and stronger for having children with disabilities. Most days are just a beautiful normal, and I feel as if I’ve stepped out of the ‘rat race’ onto a more peaceful, leisurely path that is filled with all kinds of beauty. It’s as if I never realized I was colorblind until I put on glasses that showed me color. Also my priorities have changed. Conflict was always uncomfortable for me, but having children with disabilities has brought my ‘Mama Bear’ much closer to the surface; I’m now quite comfortable standing up and advocating for my children. Growing up, I had never been around many people with disabilities, so I didn’t know how to act or what to say, but I am learning.

Parenting Kaylen and Lilly has mostly been like raising our other children. Lilly loves books, playing outside, dancing and singing, and playing with friends. Kaylen is now fully included in her 3rd grade classroom. She thinks Lilly is annoying when she makes loud noises and likes it when her older siblings play games with her. There is a stereotype that people with Ds are happy all the time, but the reality is that they experience a full range of emotions, like all of us. Kaylen and Lilly do seem a bit more honest and without pretense.

Parenting our ‘typical’ children alongside Kaylen and Lilly has had good effects too. I believe they are more likely to include people of all kinds because of their siblings. In fact researchers Richard Urbano and Robert Hodapp found that parents of children with Ds are more likely to stay together and medical geneticist Dr. Brian Skotko found that siblings find rich value in having a family member with Ds and nearly 99% of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives. All of this data beg the question: why does society (and the medical community) encourage abortion in cases like Kaylen’s and Lilly’s?

Follow-up questions:
What are your thoughts on prenatal testing for Down syndrome?
There’s no one right answer. For me, prenatal testing was a tool to help me prepare and reduce the stress of the unknown. For a good friend of mine, the test results weren’t going to change anything for her, so she declined and got her daughter’s diagnosis at birth. I’m glad to note that prenatal testing is improving. Right after Kaylen was born, researchers developed a less-invasive blood test with very high accuracy and no risk of miscarriage. I don’t think prenatal testing is inherently a problem; the issue is how society uses the test results and doesn’t protect and value life.

What would you say to a parent who just received a Down syndrome diagnosis?
When I got our diagnosis, I immediately felt unqualified and feared I would be a bad parent. That’s not an unusual response. Find support teams—both online and in-person, if possible—to ask questions, vent to, and celebrate with. Know you don’t have to be a super-advocate. Your life can just continue on in the regular, everyday way it does now. There are days when we don’t even think about Down syndrome. You’ll learn to parent as you go, just like parents do with any other child. 

What would you say to someone who would be inclined to abort in the event of a prenatal Ds diagnosis?
I would want to invite them over for coffee and to meet our girls. I would encourage them to first learn about Ds and make sure they don’t have an ill-fitting stereotype in mind (as most people do). And then if they still believe that they’re not ready to parent a child with Ds, I would steer them towards NDSAN and encourage them to find a family for their baby.

Additionally, medical professionals need updated information on Ds and training on how to provide a diagnosis. It would be great if the person giving the diagnosis also had some awareness of what life as a person with Ds is actually like. I believe if expectant moms were given updated, encouraging information instead of doom and gloom, it would make a huge difference.

[Today’s guest article is by Kim C. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

“Don’t define me by my disease.” On abortion and ableism.

[Today’s guest post is by Deb Jones. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Deb and Shooter

One of the main staples of the argument that abortion needs to stay legal is for those with disabilities, those diagnosed with diseases, syndromes and things of that nature. Why? Because those people suffer and we want to eliminate the suffering. Let me explain why that argument is offensive, bigoted, ableist, disgusting, and just plain incorrect.

I live with Behcet’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease where I’m in constant pain (the pain began 12 years ago when I was 15, the diagnosis for the pain wasn’t solidified until I was around 23). Medication and exercising through walks usually help me keep the pain at a manageable level. There are some days, however, where wearing even the loosest, softest, gentlest clothing is excruciating (some days, I can’t even be touched or touch myself) because my nerves are so sensitive and no amount of medicine can even take the edge off.


When people suggest a person with a disability is better off dead (having been aborted), it is a slap in the face because they’re telling me I would be better off not existing. Yes, life is hard. Yes there are some days I feel so low I don’t know what to do or how to feel or how to cope. There are some times where I have to take it one day, one minute, one second, one breath, one heartbeat at a time….but that’s part of the human experience. 
If I didn’t have the low parts of life, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the high parts. If anything, my disease has helped me more than hindered me. I’m more compassionate and empathetic than I was before the pain started. Yes, it’s made my life more difficult but it’s also been the epitome of creating beauty out of tragedy and brokenness. I am like a glowstick: once dull and grey at the beginning or my life, then broken (with my disease) to become vibrant and beautiful.

Don’t define me by my disease. I am more than my disease. And my disease has made me more.

My disease does not define me or decide my worth.
Read more:

The people whose lives you suggest aren’t worth living? They can hear you. Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, May 24, 2019

Lucky to Be Alive: Zika Coverage, Ableism, and the Terror of Disabled Bodies, Huffington Post, February 5, 2016
How the Pro-Choice Movement Excludes People With Disabilities, Rewire News, October 17, 2014
“Didn’t you get tested?” Salon, April 28, 2013

“Don’t define me by my disease.” On abortion and ableism.

[Today’s guest post is by Deb Jones. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Deb and Shooter

One of the main staples of the argument that abortion needs to stay legal is for those with disabilities, those diagnosed with diseases, syndromes and things of that nature. Why? Because those people suffer and we want to eliminate the suffering. Let me explain why that argument is offensive, bigoted, ableist, disgusting, and just plain incorrect.

I live with Behcet’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease where I’m in constant pain (the pain began 12 years ago when I was 15, the diagnosis for the pain wasn’t solidified until I was around 23). Medication and exercising through walks usually help me keep the pain at a manageable level. There are some days, however, where wearing even the loosest, softest, gentlest clothing is excruciating (some days, I can’t even be touched or touch myself) because my nerves are so sensitive and no amount of medicine can even take the edge off.


When people suggest a person with a disability is better off dead (having been aborted), it is a slap in the face because they’re telling me I would be better off not existing. Yes, life is hard. Yes there are some days I feel so low I don’t know what to do or how to feel or how to cope. There are some times where I have to take it one day, one minute, one second, one breath, one heartbeat at a time….but that’s part of the human experience. 
If I didn’t have the low parts of life, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the high parts. If anything, my disease has helped me more than hindered me. I’m more compassionate and empathetic than I was before the pain started. Yes, it’s made my life more difficult but it’s also been the epitome of creating beauty out of tragedy and brokenness. I am like a glowstick: once dull and grey at the beginning or my life, then broken (with my disease) to become vibrant and beautiful.

Don’t define me by my disease. I am more than my disease. And my disease has made me more.

My disease does not define me or decide my worth.
Read more:

The people whose lives you suggest aren’t worth living? They can hear you. Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, May 24, 2019

Lucky to Be Alive: Zika Coverage, Ableism, and the Terror of Disabled Bodies, Huffington Post, February 5, 2016
How the Pro-Choice Movement Excludes People With Disabilities, Rewire News, October 17, 2014
“Didn’t you get tested?” Salon, April 28, 2013

Disability Rights and the Pro-Choice Movement: A Match Made in Cognitive Dissonance

Above: A group of pro-life advocates, including two wheelchair users (Sarah Terzo and Beth Fox). Beth holds a sign reading: “Dr. said abort. Parents said no. I love my life.”

This article is by guest author Sophie Trist, a university student in Louisiana. 


Recently, I came across an op-ed piece in The Hill written by Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project, and Alexa Kolbi Molinas, a senior attorney with their Reproductive Freedom Project, which condemns HB214, an Ohio bill that would prohibit abortion in cases where the abortion is being sought because the unborn child has been diagnosed with a disability. Mizner and Kolbi Molinas claim that “Such attempts to co-opt the mantle of disability rights to ban abortion are not only hypocritical but also deeply offensive.” They are far from the first writers to attempt to align the goals of the disability rights movement with those of the pro-choice movement. As a blind woman involved in both the pro-life and disability rights movements, this rankles and troubles me. So let’s deconstruct the arguments that try to link these two fundamentally different movements.

One of the most popular arguments, advanced by Mizner and Kolbi Molinas among others, goes something like this: Both the disability rights and the reproductive justice movements are about the right to control one’s own body and determine one’s medical destiny. Proponents of this argument point to America’s long and dark history of eugenics-driven policies, including sterilizing disabled people against their will, performing inhumane medical experiments on them, and restricting their ability to marry and raise children. But in drawing parallels between these tragic events and denying women the right to terminate their pregnancies, pro-choice activists fail to consider two salient points. Firstly, the fetus is not a part of her mother’s body, but a distinct, living human being with unique DNA. Scientists have written about this far more eloquently and extensively than I can here, so I will focus on the second counter-argument.

The purpose of forcible sterilization and other policies influenced by eugenics was to decrease the disabled population, because people with disabilities were seen as inferior, even subhuman. The astronomical number of unborn children with disabilities lost to abortion points to the same dehumanizing mentality that people like Mizner and Kolbi Molinas claim to be working against, the destruction of the weak for the benefit of the strong and able-bodied. No pro-choice commentator seems to have a problem with the fact that in the United States, 67% of unborn children who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are aborted, and in some European countries, the percentage is much higher. If these statistics applied to, say, female babies, I doubt I would hear this ringing silence. While some disabled pro-choice activists speak to the negative stereotypes and perceptions of disability that pervade the medical community and cause many frightened and overwhelmed parents to choose abortion, they still celebrate the killing of unborn children, the most dependent and marginalized members of society, on the altar of autonomy and convenience. When an Oregon woman was urged by six different doctors to abort her twin daughters just because they had Down syndrome, the Internet did not burst into flames with pro-choice outrage. And I’m supposed to believe that these people care about disability rights?

Another popular argument used by activists in the strange intersection of disability rights and pro-choice movements is that bills aimed at protecting unborn children from ableist abortions do not help disabled people overcome the myriad discriminations in healthcare, employment, and housing that we encounter on a daily basis. This argument is utterly ridiculous. No law is capable of solving all of a particular group’s problems. Bills like HB214 are not meant to be panaceas that make the world perfect for people with disabilities. But they do protect our right to life, the fundamental right necessary to enjoy and fight for all other rights.

The pro-life position is based on the belief that every human being has equal dignity regardless of size, level of development, or ability. We reject societal standards that tell us a person’s worth depends on their self-sufficiency. The disability rights movement embraces the social model of disability, which states that society’s standards and stereotypes often place more of a burden on disabled people than our actual disabilities. Like the pro-life movement, disability rights activists assert that someone’s value does not depend on their productivity or independence, but on the humanity which we all share. As Matthew P. Schneider points out, the pro-life and disability rights movements share the same fundamental belief about the inherent worth of all human life, while the pro-choice philosophy relies on the same dehumanization, the same “might makes right” attitude which people with disabilities have been fighting against for centuries.

Let us return briefly to Mizner and Kolbi Molinas. They and others of their ilk accuse pro-lifers of “co-opting the mantle of disability rights” and being hypocritical for protecting disabled people in the womb while supporting cuts to healthcare and other services born people with disabilities and their families depend on. While their attempts to link disability rights and reproductive justice are rife with cognitive dissonance, there is a kernel of truth in this assertion. As pro-lifers, we must wrestle with the uncomfortable fact that many pro-life politicians and leaders act in the interest of preborn disabled people while supporting or tacitly accepting programs that make life more arduous for disabled people and our families. People with disabilities are marginalized and underrepresented in nearly every social justice movement, and the pro-life movement is no exception. I feel compelled to speak out in this post because I have heard remarkably few disabled voices during my time as a pro-life activist. If the pro-life’s narrative of protecting the disabled comes only from those without disabilities and ends at birth, it is easy to understand why pro-choicers believe that we use disabled people only as a means to an end. People with disabilities are often turned off by those who claim to speak for us, because we experience these forms of infantalization so often in our daily lives. The intersection between the pro-life and disability rights movements is deep and fundamental, and I urge my fellow pro-lifers to go beyond the well-meaning but sometimes simplistic narratives our movement has used for decades and make space for people with disabilities to speak for ourselves on a full range of life issues. And I especially urge my fellow disabled pro-lifers to stand up, to let the world know we’re here, that we’re not just pawns on the pro-life game board but activists who take the disability rights framework of valuing every life equally regardless of physical or mental characteristics to its logical conclusion.

Disability Rights and the Pro-Choice Movement: A Match Made in Cognitive Dissonance

Above: A group of pro-life advocates, including two wheelchair users (Sarah Terzo and Beth Fox). Beth holds a sign reading: “Dr. said abort. Parents said no. I love my life.”

This article is by guest author Sophie Trist, a university student in Louisiana. 


Recently, I came across an op-ed piece in The Hill written by Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project, and Alexa Kolbi Molinas, a senior attorney with their Reproductive Freedom Project, which condemns HB214, an Ohio bill that would prohibit abortion in cases where the abortion is being sought because the unborn child has been diagnosed with a disability. Mizner and Kolbi Molinas claim that “Such attempts to co-opt the mantle of disability rights to ban abortion are not only hypocritical but also deeply offensive.” They are far from the first writers to attempt to align the goals of the disability rights movement with those of the pro-choice movement. As a blind woman involved in both the pro-life and disability rights movements, this rankles and troubles me. So let’s deconstruct the arguments that try to link these two fundamentally different movements.

One of the most popular arguments, advanced by Mizner and Kolbi Molinas among others, goes something like this: Both the disability rights and the reproductive justice movements are about the right to control one’s own body and determine one’s medical destiny. Proponents of this argument point to America’s long and dark history of eugenics-driven policies, including sterilizing disabled people against their will, performing inhumane medical experiments on them, and restricting their ability to marry and raise children. But in drawing parallels between these tragic events and denying women the right to terminate their pregnancies, pro-choice activists fail to consider two salient points. Firstly, the fetus is not a part of her mother’s body, but a distinct, living human being with unique DNA. Scientists have written about this far more eloquently and extensively than I can here, so I will focus on the second counter-argument.

The purpose of forcible sterilization and other policies influenced by eugenics was to decrease the disabled population, because people with disabilities were seen as inferior, even subhuman. The astronomical number of unborn children with disabilities lost to abortion points to the same dehumanizing mentality that people like Mizner and Kolbi Molinas claim to be working against, the destruction of the weak for the benefit of the strong and able-bodied. No pro-choice commentator seems to have a problem with the fact that in the United States, 67% of unborn children who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are aborted, and in some European countries, the percentage is much higher. If these statistics applied to, say, female babies, I doubt I would hear this ringing silence. While some disabled pro-choice activists speak to the negative stereotypes and perceptions of disability that pervade the medical community and cause many frightened and overwhelmed parents to choose abortion, they still celebrate the killing of unborn children, the most dependent and marginalized members of society, on the altar of autonomy and convenience. When an Oregon woman was urged by six different doctors to abort her twin daughters just because they had Down syndrome, the Internet did not burst into flames with pro-choice outrage. And I’m supposed to believe that these people care about disability rights?

Another popular argument used by activists in the strange intersection of disability rights and pro-choice movements is that bills aimed at protecting unborn children from ableist abortions do not help disabled people overcome the myriad discriminations in healthcare, employment, and housing that we encounter on a daily basis. This argument is utterly ridiculous. No law is capable of solving all of a particular group’s problems. Bills like HB214 are not meant to be panaceas that make the world perfect for people with disabilities. But they do protect our right to life, the fundamental right necessary to enjoy and fight for all other rights.

The pro-life position is based on the belief that every human being has equal dignity regardless of size, level of development, or ability. We reject societal standards that tell us a person’s worth depends on their self-sufficiency. The disability rights movement embraces the social model of disability, which states that society’s standards and stereotypes often place more of a burden on disabled people than our actual disabilities. Like the pro-life movement, disability rights activists assert that someone’s value does not depend on their productivity or independence, but on the humanity which we all share. As Matthew P. Schneider points out, the pro-life and disability rights movements share the same fundamental belief about the inherent worth of all human life, while the pro-choice philosophy relies on the same dehumanization, the same “might makes right” attitude which people with disabilities have been fighting against for centuries.

Let us return briefly to Mizner and Kolbi Molinas. They and others of their ilk accuse pro-lifers of “co-opting the mantle of disability rights” and being hypocritical for protecting disabled people in the womb while supporting cuts to healthcare and other services born people with disabilities and their families depend on. While their attempts to link disability rights and reproductive justice are rife with cognitive dissonance, there is a kernel of truth in this assertion. As pro-lifers, we must wrestle with the uncomfortable fact that many pro-life politicians and leaders act in the interest of preborn disabled people while supporting or tacitly accepting programs that make life more arduous for disabled people and our families. People with disabilities are marginalized and underrepresented in nearly every social justice movement, and the pro-life movement is no exception. I feel compelled to speak out in this post because I have heard remarkably few disabled voices during my time as a pro-life activist. If the pro-life’s narrative of protecting the disabled comes only from those without disabilities and ends at birth, it is easy to understand why pro-choicers believe that we use disabled people only as a means to an end. People with disabilities are often turned off by those who claim to speak for us, because we experience these forms of infantalization so often in our daily lives. The intersection between the pro-life and disability rights movements is deep and fundamental, and I urge my fellow pro-lifers to go beyond the well-meaning but sometimes simplistic narratives our movement has used for decades and make space for people with disabilities to speak for ourselves on a full range of life issues. And I especially urge my fellow disabled pro-lifers to stand up, to let the world know we’re here, that we’re not just pawns on the pro-life game board but activists who take the disability rights framework of valuing every life equally regardless of physical or mental characteristics to its logical conclusion.

“Except in the Womb”

Over at Slate, abortion supporter Christina Cauterucci has an article about the phrase “except in the womb.” To call it an “article” is a bit generous. It’s really more of a rant. The thesis is basically “I do not like it when anti-abortion people say this.” Still, her annoyance is at least partially justified. For instance, when she says:

The ultimate message of “except in the womb” is that no one is allowed to try to change the world for the better until they try to criminalize abortion.

I immediately thought, Now you know how we feel when abortion supporters argue that we can’t try to save babies’ lives until we’ve adopted every child from foster care!, or until we’ve reformed immigration!, or whatever the popular distraction of the moment is. No one doubts that foster care and immigration reform are good causes. There’s no need to make it a competition.

Via Dank Pro-Life Memes. Image description: One person says “Killing homeless should be illegal.” A second person responds “How many homeless did you invite to your house?”

The use of “except in the womb” is sometimes perfectly on point, sometimes analogous to the “not until” pro-choice argument, and sometimes completely inappropriate. Surprise: context matters! So let’s consider each of Cauterucci’s examples, and my (admittedly subjective) verdicts on each.

Statement: “Climate change activists want to save future generations, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Mostly bad

In general, using “except in the womb” in connection with climate change is bad form. It’s a classic example of what Josh Brahm calls “fetus tunnel vision,” defined as “the inability to see and/or acknowledge human rights injustices without equating or comparing them to abortion.” The world has plenty of problems to tackle; we can acknowledge them on their merits without twisting everything into an abortion debate.

The one exception I’ll allow is when climate change activists promote abortion as a form of population control, particularly for low-income minorities, to save the planet—as Sen. Bernie Sanders recently did. It’s completely appropriate (indeed necessary) to call out the eugenicist roots of that thinking, and “save future generations, except in the womb” is a fine start.

But the usage Cauterucci cites was directed at Greta Thunberg, not Sen. Sanders, and it’s pretty blatant fetus tunnel vision. Cauterucci’s annoyance is understandable. I share it.

Statement: “Abortion care coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in the field? That’s supporting peace, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Spot on

I have no complaints about this use of “except in the womb.” Abortion is an act of violence, completely incompatible with any institution claiming a mission of peace. And it’s obviously not a case of fetus tunnel vision since, as Cauterucci herself acknowledges, it directly concerns abortion policy.


Statement: “Opposed to Indiana’s ban on abortions sought due to fetal genetic disorders? That’s celebrating people with disabilities, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Also spot on

You can’t celebrate people with disabilities if you think they’re better off dead. You really think people with disabilities don’t notice your “fetal anomalies” abortion advocacy? It’s hurtful. “Except in the womb” is great in this context; better yet, let’s point ableist abortion supporters to pro-life statements from folks with disabilities.


Statement: “When Kamala Harris called for stricter gun laws after the Parkland shooting, it showed she cared about children being slaughtered—except in the womb.”
Verdict: Borderline

If a pro-choice Joe Schmo brings up gun control and a pro-lifer responds with “except in the womb,” that’s clearly fetus tunnel vision, and also wildly insensitive to the families who have lost children to gun violence. The loss of life at Parkland is horribly tragic, full stop. Turning it into an abortion debate benefits no one.

The one reason I call this borderline is because it is not Joe Schmo; it’s Sen. Kamala Harris, a public figure with a long history of hostility to unborn babies. Her political hypocrisy is gross and rage-inducing. Still, there’s probably a better way to make this point.

Statement: “When Nancy Pelosi condemned Basher al-Assad for killing children with chemical weapons, she said she told her grandson the victims were ‘children wherever they are’—except in the womb.”
Verdict: Also borderline

Same as above.


Statement: “In replies and quote tweets on Twitter, conservatives regularly append the phrase to anything a perceived liberal says that rests on human decency or a shared set of morals. They’ve tacked it onto a March for Our Lives sign that said ‘I don’t want [kids] to die’…”
Verdict: Definitely inappropriate. 

This is akin to the “Joe Schmo” hypothetical above—except that, for all you know, the person at the March for Our Lives is pro-life on abortion! That’s just tribal antagonism for the sake of it. Knock it off.

Statement: “…to Rep. Eric Swalwell’s claim that he wants to protect children’s dreams…”
Verdict: Probably inappropriate. 

You can make the borderline case as with Sen. Harris and Rep. Pelosi above, except that Rep. Swalwell and his abortion advocacy are less prominent.

Statement: “… to Planned Parenthood’s post–Christchurch massacre tweet that said, ‘we all deserve to live free from fear and violence’…”
Verdict: Absolutely fine.

C’mon. It’s Planned Parenthood. They killed 332,757 helpless human beings last year. They don’t get a pass.

Statement: “…and to many, many invocations of #BlackLivesMatter.”
Verdict: NO. NO NO NO. NO.

Fetus tunnel vision and racist undertones? Not a winning combination. Please, for the love, do not do this.

Do you agree with my verdicts? Let’s hear your arguments in the comments.

“Except in the Womb”

Over at Slate, abortion supporter Christina Cauterucci has an article about the phrase “except in the womb.” To call it an “article” is a bit generous. It’s really more of a rant. The thesis is basically “I do not like it when anti-abortion people say this.” Still, her annoyance is at least partially justified. For instance, when she says:

The ultimate message of “except in the womb” is that no one is allowed to try to change the world for the better until they try to criminalize abortion.

I immediately thought, Now you know how we feel when abortion supporters argue that we can’t try to save babies’ lives until we’ve adopted every child from foster care!, or until we’ve reformed immigration!, or whatever the popular distraction of the moment is. No one doubts that foster care and immigration reform are good causes. There’s no need to make it a competition.

Via Dank Pro-Life Memes. Image description: One person says “Killing homeless should be illegal.” A second person responds “How many homeless did you invite to your house?”

The use of “except in the womb” is sometimes perfectly on point, sometimes analogous to the “not until” pro-choice argument, and sometimes completely inappropriate. Surprise: context matters! So let’s consider each of Cauterucci’s examples, and my (admittedly subjective) verdicts on each.

Statement: “Climate change activists want to save future generations, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Mostly bad

In general, using “except in the womb” in connection with climate change is bad form. It’s a classic example of what Josh Brahm calls “fetus tunnel vision,” defined as “the inability to see and/or acknowledge human rights injustices without equating or comparing them to abortion.” The world has plenty of problems to tackle; we can acknowledge them on their merits without twisting everything into an abortion debate.

The one exception I’ll allow is when climate change activists promote abortion as a form of population control, particularly for low-income minorities, to save the planet—as Sen. Bernie Sanders recently did. It’s completely appropriate (indeed necessary) to call out the eugenicist roots of that thinking, and “save future generations, except in the womb” is a fine start.

But the usage Cauterucci cites was directed at Greta Thunberg, not Sen. Sanders, and it’s pretty blatant fetus tunnel vision. Cauterucci’s annoyance is understandable. I share it.

Statement: “Abortion care coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in the field? That’s supporting peace, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Spot on

I have no complaints about this use of “except in the womb.” Abortion is an act of violence, completely incompatible with any institution claiming a mission of peace. And it’s obviously not a case of fetus tunnel vision since, as Cauterucci herself acknowledges, it directly concerns abortion policy.


Statement: “Opposed to Indiana’s ban on abortions sought due to fetal genetic disorders? That’s celebrating people with disabilities, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Also spot on

You can’t celebrate people with disabilities if you think they’re better off dead. You really think people with disabilities don’t notice your “fetal anomalies” abortion advocacy? It’s hurtful. “Except in the womb” is great in this context; better yet, let’s point ableist abortion supporters to pro-life statements from folks with disabilities.


Statement: “When Kamala Harris called for stricter gun laws after the Parkland shooting, it showed she cared about children being slaughtered—except in the womb.”
Verdict: Borderline

If a pro-choice Joe Schmo brings up gun control and a pro-lifer responds with “except in the womb,” that’s clearly fetus tunnel vision, and also wildly insensitive to the families who have lost children to gun violence. The loss of life at Parkland is horribly tragic, full stop. Turning it into an abortion debate benefits no one.

The one reason I call this borderline is because it is not Joe Schmo; it’s Sen. Kamala Harris, a public figure with a long history of hostility to unborn babies. Her political hypocrisy is gross and rage-inducing. Still, there’s probably a better way to make this point.

Statement: “When Nancy Pelosi condemned Basher al-Assad for killing children with chemical weapons, she said she told her grandson the victims were ‘children wherever they are’—except in the womb.”
Verdict: Also borderline

Same as above.


Statement: “In replies and quote tweets on Twitter, conservatives regularly append the phrase to anything a perceived liberal says that rests on human decency or a shared set of morals. They’ve tacked it onto a March for Our Lives sign that said ‘I don’t want [kids] to die’…”
Verdict: Definitely inappropriate. 

This is akin to the “Joe Schmo” hypothetical above—except that, for all you know, the person at the March for Our Lives is pro-life on abortion! That’s just tribal antagonism for the sake of it. Knock it off.

Statement: “…to Rep. Eric Swalwell’s claim that he wants to protect children’s dreams…”
Verdict: Probably inappropriate. 

You can make the borderline case as with Sen. Harris and Rep. Pelosi above, except that Rep. Swalwell and his abortion advocacy are less prominent.

Statement: “… to Planned Parenthood’s post–Christchurch massacre tweet that said, ‘we all deserve to live free from fear and violence’…”
Verdict: Absolutely fine.

C’mon. It’s Planned Parenthood. They killed 332,757 helpless human beings last year. They don’t get a pass.

Statement: “…and to many, many invocations of #BlackLivesMatter.”
Verdict: NO. NO NO NO. NO.

Fetus tunnel vision and racist undertones? Not a winning combination. Please, for the love, do not do this.

Do you agree with my verdicts? Let’s hear your arguments in the comments.

The people whose lives you suggest aren’t worth living? They can hear you.

[The original FB post where we collected these answers can be found here.
We’ve since created a FB album with more such perspectives here.]

Recently, “The Good Place” star Jameela Jamil tweeted the following:

Text reads: “I had an abortion when I was young, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Both for me, and for the baby I didn’t want, and wasn’t ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes. So many lives ruined. So very cruel.”
As we’ve discussed before, it’s one thing to argue for abortion for the sake of the woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant/bear a child; it’s quite another to argue abortion is in the best interest of the human being aborted. But Jamil is definitely not alone in believing abortion is a mercy. We hear sentiments like her own frequently:
Text reads: “Ending abortion will bring nothing but pain. Not only for women, but for children. Children will be born to parents who can’t afford them, parents who aren’t ready, or they will live their lives in foster care. More poor kids, more abused kids, more traumatized kids.”

Text reads: “hi there are thousands of neglected children in foster care, it’s more brutal to put them into the system than to abort them before they’re even a life.”

Text reads: “Unpopular opinion: I’d rather have my tax dollars fund a $600 abortion than my tax dollars support a child growing up in the system for 18 years never knowing what it’s like to be loved or cared for.”
These views prioritize abortion over foster care, but we’ve seen similar sentiments prioritizing abortion over a life with disabilities or generally being poor, etc. Those advocating for abortion as mercy rarely seem interested in the voices they are allegedly advocating on behalf of–the very people who have grown up in foster care or lived with disabilities or poverty. So in this post we try to amplify some of those voices.
Video of Frank Stephens’ testimony before Congress regarding abortion in the case of Down Syndrome. “I don’t feel I should have to justify my existence.”
Text reads: “I was put up for adoption by my birth mother because she knew she couldn’t financially care for me. She ignored the pressure from family to abort, and chose to give me life. I thank god for her selflessness every day. Because of her my two beautiful girls exist.”

Text reads: “My mom was told to abort me because she got pregnant with me at 19 with no job, and the doctors insisted I would be severely disabled. The nurses essentially begged my mother to abort me after saying I would be ‘slower than the other kids.’ She didn’t, and it turns out I am autistic. But I’m about to graduate university with a first in physics and a grad scheme already lined up. I’m the first in my family to go to university for a STEM subject. My mom tells me I’m the best thing that ever happened to her. F*** those nurses and doctors who thought me being disabled made me worth less. I’m not better off dead!”

Text reads: “I was a textbook abortion case…child of rape. Mother couldn’t afford me, dad not in the picture. No money. No family. Failure to thrive in the womb. I get to write this Tweet because my mom chose life. I thank God every day for it. Murder is not a human right. #AlabamaAbortionBan.”
Text reads: “As a product of the statutory rape of a 14 year old…and also adopted…I can assure you that comments about what an atrocity, a burden and an injustice it must have been for my birth mother NOT to have killed me…and then laughing at the solution of adoption…is extremely dehumanizing and hurtful. It sends a very loud message that my life is less valuable than others, and that not only was the pregnancy unwanted but that I as a person am also not wanted.”

Text reads: “I’m a 20-year-old woman with spina bifida myelomeningocele. I live with chronic pain & illness, which have helped me to love more deeply. While I’m not obligated to prove that I deserve the right to life, I’m happy to say I live a beautiful one, and I am not better off dead.”
Text reads: “As an adoptee, don’t you dare presume to speak for me. Knowing the true, self-sacrificing love my birthmother had for me has only strengthened by pro-life beliefs. My life was never an option for her. It’s appalling anyone would believe another person’s life is optional.”
Text reads: “‘Abortion is better than leaving these kids in the foster care system.’ Well, I was in foster care. Are you saying my birth mother should have killed me instead?”
Text reads: “Having spent my entire childhood in foster care, I feel physically SICK every time I see a tweet saying we are all basically better off dead.”
Text reads: “‘Feminists’ have been telling my autistic little sister and I all day that we aren’t convenient enough to exist right now, because we were born to a drug addicted single mother and different fathers. But our biological mother chose LIFE. I will not stay silent. #Adopted.”
Text reads: “You know, I did actually hear ‘But how much of that suffering would you have been spared if your mum *had* decided not to have you?’ How do you even respond to that? It was meant with all the care in the world, but…damn.”

Text reads: “As a kid in foster care, I can tell you I would rather be where I am right here with my foster family rather than being aborted and not being able to love. To live. To meet new people and to grow.”

Text reads: “People are saying my mom should have aborted us so we wouldn’t have went through foster care and that’s absolutely crazy. Never kill a baby because you think their life will be tough. Give them a chance. That tough life has made me a strong and wise young man.”

Text reads: [Jameela Jamil’s original tweet followed by] “Wow. I was a foster kid. Even though I have some deep wound, my life has turned out beautifully. I’m truly saddened by this and just so disappointed. My wounds are so sorth the life I live – and *love* – today. Just so worth it.”

Text reads: “Best decision?? You have ever made? That is not right. I was adopted into a rough home with a lot of mental illness – but I am so glad I’m alive, and turned it around to bring two other great people into the world. Thank you to the mom out there who didn’t think like you.”

(Click to enlarge.)
Text reads: [Original “unpopular opinion tweet, followed by multiple comments:]

“Wow I’m sure every kid in foster care feels great after reading this…”

“Eh this post is kind of embarrassing and offensive. Pro-choicers are starting to make it seem like all kids in foster care have lives that are complete shit and don’t grow up to be great people and do great things. They have aspirations, hopes and dreams and desires just like anyone else. Many of them find great families and wouldn’t change their lives for anything. Those kids and adults that are or were in foster care have to keep seeing stuff like this that is basically strangers saying they would rather them be dead.”

“I’m a foster child and I feel highly offended.”

“I am pro-choice, however, as a child raised in the system, who was constantly moved from home to home, this post is so off base. If you’re so concerned about children living in bad homes and not feeling loved, go be a foster parent and show those kids love and what a good home is.”

“I was in foster care most of my childhood. It’s not all bad. I’m happy to be alive, thanks.”
Text reads: [Original “ending abortion will bring nothing but pain” tweet, followed by:] “I was terribly abused and grew up in a single-parent welfare home. Stop using lives like mine for validation. Because I like my life, warts and all–and you know what would’ve helped when I was a child? If pro-choice people stopped insisting people like me were better off dead.”
Often when people speak out about their lives and their worth, pro-choice people will respond with something like “No one is saying you’re better off dead. We’re only saying that women should have a choice.” But if you read through these conversations again, you can see that’s not the case. The argument is not merely that abortion is necessary for the sake of the woman; the argument is also that abortion is better for the sake of the human being aborted. If abortion is supposed to be a better outcome for the child than being born into poverty, disability, foster care, etc., then the argument very much is that these people would be better off dead or having never lived. And it makes sense for all people in these circumstances to take that argument personally.
Further Reading:
Top recommended:
More:

The people whose lives you suggest aren’t worth living? They can hear you.

[The original FB post where we collected these answers can be found here.
We’ve since created a FB album with more such perspectives here.]

Recently, “The Good Place” star Jameela Jamil tweeted the following:

Text reads: “I had an abortion when I was young, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Both for me, and for the baby I didn’t want, and wasn’t ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes. So many lives ruined. So very cruel.”
As we’ve discussed before, it’s one thing to argue for abortion for the sake of the woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant/bear a child; it’s quite another to argue abortion is in the best interest of the human being aborted. But Jamil is definitely not alone in believing abortion is a mercy. We hear sentiments like her own frequently:
Text reads: “Ending abortion will bring nothing but pain. Not only for women, but for children. Children will be born to parents who can’t afford them, parents who aren’t ready, or they will live their lives in foster care. More poor kids, more abused kids, more traumatized kids.”

Text reads: “hi there are thousands of neglected children in foster care, it’s more brutal to put them into the system than to abort them before they’re even a life.”

Text reads: “Unpopular opinion: I’d rather have my tax dollars fund a $600 abortion than my tax dollars support a child growing up in the system for 18 years never knowing what it’s like to be loved or cared for.”
These views prioritize abortion over foster care, but we’ve seen similar sentiments prioritizing abortion over a life with disabilities or generally being poor, etc. Those advocating for abortion as mercy rarely seem interested in the voices they are allegedly advocating on behalf of–the very people who have grown up in foster care or lived with disabilities or poverty. So in this post we try to amplify some of those voices.
Video of Frank Stephens’ testimony before Congress regarding abortion in the case of Down Syndrome. “I don’t feel I should have to justify my existence.”
Text reads: “I was put up for adoption by my birth mother because she knew she couldn’t financially care for me. She ignored the pressure from family to abort, and chose to give me life. I thank god for her selflessness every day. Because of her my two beautiful girls exist.”

Text reads: “My mom was told to abort me because she got pregnant with me at 19 with no job, and the doctors insisted I would be severely disabled. The nurses essentially begged my mother to abort me after saying I would be ‘slower than the other kids.’ She didn’t, and it turns out I am autistic. But I’m about to graduate university with a first in physics and a grad scheme already lined up. I’m the first in my family to go to university for a STEM subject. My mom tells me I’m the best thing that ever happened to her. F*** those nurses and doctors who thought me being disabled made me worth less. I’m not better off dead!”

Text reads: “I was a textbook abortion case…child of rape. Mother couldn’t afford me, dad not in the picture. No money. No family. Failure to thrive in the womb. I get to write this Tweet because my mom chose life. I thank God every day for it. Murder is not a human right. #AlabamaAbortionBan.”
Text reads: “As a product of the statutory rape of a 14 year old…and also adopted…I can assure you that comments about what an atrocity, a burden and an injustice it must have been for my birth mother NOT to have killed me…and then laughing at the solution of adoption…is extremely dehumanizing and hurtful. It sends a very loud message that my life is less valuable than others, and that not only was the pregnancy unwanted but that I as a person am also not wanted.”

Text reads: “I’m a 20-year-old woman with spina bifida myelomeningocele. I live with chronic pain & illness, which have helped me to love more deeply. While I’m not obligated to prove that I deserve the right to life, I’m happy to say I live a beautiful one, and I am not better off dead.”
Text reads: “As an adoptee, don’t you dare presume to speak for me. Knowing the true, self-sacrificing love my birthmother had for me has only strengthened by pro-life beliefs. My life was never an option for her. It’s appalling anyone would believe another person’s life is optional.”
Text reads: “‘Abortion is better than leaving these kids in the foster care system.’ Well, I was in foster care. Are you saying my birth mother should have killed me instead?”
Text reads: “Having spent my entire childhood in foster care, I feel physically SICK every time I see a tweet saying we are all basically better off dead.”
Text reads: “‘Feminists’ have been telling my autistic little sister and I all day that we aren’t convenient enough to exist right now, because we were born to a drug addicted single mother and different fathers. But our biological mother chose LIFE. I will not stay silent. #Adopted.”
Text reads: “You know, I did actually hear ‘But how much of that suffering would you have been spared if your mum *had* decided not to have you?’ How do you even respond to that? It was meant with all the care in the world, but…damn.”

Text reads: “As a kid in foster care, I can tell you I would rather be where I am right here with my foster family rather than being aborted and not being able to love. To live. To meet new people and to grow.”

Text reads: “People are saying my mom should have aborted us so we wouldn’t have went through foster care and that’s absolutely crazy. Never kill a baby because you think their life will be tough. Give them a chance. That tough life has made me a strong and wise young man.”

Text reads: [Jameela Jamil’s original tweet followed by] “Wow. I was a foster kid. Even though I have some deep wound, my life has turned out beautifully. I’m truly saddened by this and just so disappointed. My wounds are so sorth the life I live – and *love* – today. Just so worth it.”

Text reads: “Best decision?? You have ever made? That is not right. I was adopted into a rough home with a lot of mental illness – but I am so glad I’m alive, and turned it around to bring two other great people into the world. Thank you to the mom out there who didn’t think like you.”

(Click to enlarge.)
Text reads: [Original “unpopular opinion tweet, followed by multiple comments:]

“Wow I’m sure every kid in foster care feels great after reading this…”

“Eh this post is kind of embarrassing and offensive. Pro-choicers are starting to make it seem like all kids in foster care have lives that are complete shit and don’t grow up to be great people and do great things. They have aspirations, hopes and dreams and desires just like anyone else. Many of them find great families and wouldn’t change their lives for anything. Those kids and adults that are or were in foster care have to keep seeing stuff like this that is basically strangers saying they would rather them be dead.”

“I’m a foster child and I feel highly offended.”

“I am pro-choice, however, as a child raised in the system, who was constantly moved from home to home, this post is so off base. If you’re so concerned about children living in bad homes and not feeling loved, go be a foster parent and show those kids love and what a good home is.”

“I was in foster care most of my childhood. It’s not all bad. I’m happy to be alive, thanks.”
Text reads: [Original “ending abortion will bring nothing but pain” tweet, followed by:] “I was terribly abused and grew up in a single-parent welfare home. Stop using lives like mine for validation. Because I like my life, warts and all–and you know what would’ve helped when I was a child? If pro-choice people stopped insisting people like me were better off dead.”
Often when people speak out about their lives and their worth, pro-choice people will respond with something like “No one is saying you’re better off dead. We’re only saying that women should have a choice.” But if you read through these conversations again, you can see that’s not the case. The argument is not merely that abortion is necessary for the sake of the woman; the argument is also that abortion is better for the sake of the human being aborted. If abortion is supposed to be a better outcome for the child than being born into poverty, disability, foster care, etc., then the argument very much is that these people would be better off dead or having never lived. And it makes sense for all people in these circumstances to take that argument personally.
Further Reading:
Top recommended:
More:

Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Doe v. District of Columbia is not pro-abortion

In recent weeks, there have been a few articles in left-leaning media outlets concerning Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion in the case of Doe v. District of Columbia, with some suggesting that the opinion allows coerced abortions on people with disabilities. And to be abundantly clear, support for coerced abortions on people with disabilities would be an immediate deal-breaker for pro-life advocacy groups—which is why I was immediately suspicious of the claim. Doe is a 2007 case. How on earth could the Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, White House bureaucrats, and all of the the dozens of pro-life organizations with an interest in the next Supreme Court nominee all fail to catch an 11-year-old coerced abortion decision while vetting Kavanaugh?

Last week National Review published a rebuttal which called the Doe controversy a “vicious distortion” of Kavanaugh’s record and helpfully included a link to his opinion. I happen to be a lawyer, so I decided to analyze the Doe opinion myself. With the Kavanaugh hearings beginning today, now is as good a time as any to sort this out.

I won’t keep you in suspense. The Doe case has nothing to do with abortion and the criticism is baseless.

The central issue in Doe was the District of Columbia Department of Disability Services’ procedures to authorize surgeries for a small subset of people whose intellectual disabilities prevent them from making medical decisions. Specifically, the case concerned D.C. residents for whom all of the following are true:

  1. The person lacks capacity, meaning that he or she “lacks sufficient mental capacity to appreciate the nature and
    implications of a health-care decision, make a choice regarding the
    alternatives presented or communicate that choice in an unambiguous
    manner.” The capacity determination must be made by two physicians, at least one of them being a psychiatrist. Not all intellectually disabled people lack capacity under this test.
  2. The person has always lacked capacity, and therefore the District can’t rely on any previously expressed wishes concerning medical treatment.
  3. The person does not have a proxy to make medical decisions for him or her. As stated in the opinion (citations omitted): “D.C. law creates a hierarchy of individuals authorized to make
    healthcare decisions for persons who have been certified … as lacking mental capacity. That list includes, in order of priority: a court-appointed guardian
    or conservator; a spouse or domestic partner; an adult child; a
    parent; an adult sibling; a religious superior, if applicable; a
    close friend; or the nearest living relative. The [Department of Disability Services] Administrator makes healthcare decisions for an incapacitated
    patient only if none of the above individuals is available and willing
    to do so.”
  4. And, last but certainly not least, the potential surgery in question is not an abortion. Again, as stated in the opinion: “The D.C. Code also explicitly provides that abortions, sterilizations,
    and psycho-surgeries may not be authorized, at least absent a court
    order.”

To recap: when a person has a lifelong intellectual disability that has always prevented him or her from appreciating the nature and implications of a healthcare decision, and that person sadly has no guardian, spouse, child, parent, sibling, clergy member, close friend, or living relative to serve as a healthcare decision-maker, and that person has a medical issue that may call for a surgical intervention—other than abortion, sterilization, or psycho-surgery—the Department of Disability Services has to have protocols in place to address all competing considerations and try to reach an outcome that will further the person’s health.

The plaintiffs alleged that those protocols were inadequate and failed to give enough weight to the person’s wishes. The District of Columbia countered that the person’s wishes were impossible to ascertain, and in any event, the protocol did include “efforts to discuss the surgery with the patient at the level of patient comprehension.”

Judge Kavanaugh ruled that the District of Columbia’s protocols were legally sound. If you read the opinion, maybe you’ll agree, and maybe you won’t. It’s a fairly debatable issue. What’s not fair is ignoring the explicit exclusion of abortion in order to paint Kavanaugh as some eugenicist monster.

If pro-choice groups want to find an actual villain, they might look in the mirror: Roe v. Wade itself cites the notorious forced sterilization case of Buck v. Bell with approval.