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.]

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:
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Abortion and Disability Rights

Every life has equal worth. However, not all lives are treated with dignity. For instance, society commonly favors the lives of non-disabled people over disabled people. This preference even appears in the debate about the legality of abortions. A common argument pro-choicers pose is that a woman should get an abortion if she is not comfortable bearing and/or raising a child with disabilities. An abortion would be better than birthing an unwanted child into this world, correct? I would argue otherwise.

Financial issues are still prevalent in today’s economy. Admittedly, raising a disabled child does require additional expenses than it would raising a non disabled child. However, abortion should not be posed as the best answer to a parent’s financial troubles. Abortions are a band aid solution to poverty. A better alternative would be improving the safety net for guardians. Perhaps then fewer people would feel it is financially obligatory to terminate pregnancies.

The most discussed disability in the debate is Down Syndrome (DS). Iceland recently announced they have an extremely low percentage of citizens with DS. In the article What kind of society do you want to live in?: Inside the country where Down Syndrome is disappearing, Julian Quinones and Arijeta Lajka from CBS News reported the cause. Icelandic mothers get prenatal screenings and get abortions after finding the child has DS. This is upsetting for various reasons. One justification for abortion is that kids with DS are likelier to get put in and stay in the foster care system; Abortion would end any chance of possible emotional suffering. However, ableism is the underlying issue. People with DS and other disabilities are as valuable as people without disabilities, and should be viewed as such.

The rights of disabled people is close to my heart. I personally have a speaking impediment, which has led to me sometimes being treated differently. I do not want sympathy, but my past has influenced my political beliefs. The existence of disabled people should not be used to justify abortion; our lives have meaning too.

[Today’s guest post by Angelica Del Pilar is part of our paid blogging program.]

Abortion and Disability Rights

Every life has equal worth. However, not all lives are treated with dignity. For instance, society commonly favors the lives of non-disabled people over disabled people. This preference even appears in the debate about the legality of abortions. A common argument pro-choicers pose is that a woman should get an abortion if she is not comfortable bearing and/or raising a child with disabilities. An abortion would be better than birthing an unwanted child into this world, correct? I would argue otherwise.

Financial issues are still prevalent in today’s economy. Admittedly, raising a disabled child does require additional expenses than it would raising a non disabled child. However, abortion should not be posed as the best answer to a parent’s financial troubles. Abortions are a band aid solution to poverty. A better alternative would be improving the safety net for guardians. Perhaps then fewer people would feel it is financially obligatory to terminate pregnancies.

The most discussed disability in the debate is Down Syndrome (DS). Iceland recently announced they have an extremely low percentage of citizens with DS. In the article What kind of society do you want to live in?: Inside the country where Down Syndrome is disappearing, Julian Quinones and Arijeta Lajka from CBS News reported the cause. Icelandic mothers get prenatal screenings and get abortions after finding the child has DS. This is upsetting for various reasons. One justification for abortion is that kids with DS are likelier to get put in and stay in the foster care system; Abortion would end any chance of possible emotional suffering. However, ableism is the underlying issue. People with DS and other disabilities are as valuable as people without disabilities, and should be viewed as such.

The rights of disabled people is close to my heart. I personally have a speaking impediment, which has led to me sometimes being treated differently. I do not want sympathy, but my past has influenced my political beliefs. The existence of disabled people should not be used to justify abortion; our lives have meaning too.

[Today’s guest post by Angelica Del Pilar is part of our paid blogging program.]

Down Syndrome Abortion and the Courts: Part II

In January, we wrote about the passage of laws against Down Syndrome abortion in North Dakota, Indiana, and Ohio, and mentioned that Indiana’s law had been struck down but was on appeal.

Unfortunately, last Friday, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled against Indiana’s protection of babies with Down Syndrome. Judge Manion wrote a separate opinion, essentially expressing support for the law but stating that, regrettably, Supreme Court precedent ties the 7th Circuit’s hands.

Indiana can still appeal to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court is more likely to take the case if there is a circuit split; that is, when two federal appellate courts have reached different conclusions on the same issue. Accordingly, the pro-life movement continues to pursue anti-ableist abortion legislation in multiple jurisdictions.

Pennsylvania is next on the list. A bill against abortion for Down Syndrome passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week with bipartisan support. However, it faces a tough road in the state senate, and Governor Tom Wolf is a known abortion industry supporter.

Down Syndrome Abortion and the Courts: Part II

In January, we wrote about the passage of laws against Down Syndrome abortion in North Dakota, Indiana, and Ohio, and mentioned that Indiana’s law had been struck down but was on appeal.

Unfortunately, last Friday, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled against Indiana’s protection of babies with Down Syndrome. Judge Manion wrote a separate opinion, essentially expressing support for the law but stating that, regrettably, Supreme Court precedent ties the 7th Circuit’s hands.

Indiana can still appeal to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court is more likely to take the case if there is a circuit split; that is, when two federal appellate courts have reached different conclusions on the same issue. Accordingly, the pro-life movement continues to pursue anti-ableist abortion legislation in multiple jurisdictions.

Pennsylvania is next on the list. A bill against abortion for Down Syndrome passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week with bipartisan support. However, it faces a tough road in the state senate, and Governor Tom Wolf is a known abortion industry supporter.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Today, on March 21—3/21, in a nod to the third copy of chromosome 21—we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. It’s a time to recognize the unique individuals with Down Syndrome and advocate for their inclusion in society.

It’s hard to celebrate this year. A few months ago, major media outlets reported that Iceland is well on its way to “eradicating Down Syndrome”—more accurately, as actress Patricia Heaton pointed out, eliminating unborn children who have Down Syndrome. More recently, the ACLU has sued to block Ohio’s ban on abortions for Down Syndrome, and the Washington Post published not just one, but two blatantly ableist op-ed pieces justifying the destruction of babies with that dreaded 47th chromosome.

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for every person with Down Syndrome to have equal opportunities and all the supports they need to accomplish their dreams. In the famous words of Megan Bomgaars: “Don’t limit me!”

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for the ACLU to rediscover the meaning of civil liberties for all, not just the able-bodied and born.

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post to soften her heart and stop hiding eugenics behind the veil of “choice” and “complexity.”

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for a world in which every child is welcomed in life and protected by law, without regard to prenatal diagnosis.

Progress will come—but only if we work tirelessly for it.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Today, on March 21—3/21, in a nod to the third copy of chromosome 21—we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. It’s a time to recognize the unique individuals with Down Syndrome and advocate for their inclusion in society.

It’s hard to celebrate this year. A few months ago, major media outlets reported that Iceland is well on its way to “eradicating Down Syndrome”—more accurately, as actress Patricia Heaton pointed out, eliminating unborn children who have Down Syndrome. More recently, the ACLU has sued to block Ohio’s ban on abortions for Down Syndrome, and the Washington Post published not just one, but two blatantly ableist op-ed pieces justifying the destruction of babies with that dreaded 47th chromosome.

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for every person with Down Syndrome to have equal opportunities and all the supports they need to accomplish their dreams. In the famous words of Megan Bomgaars: “Don’t limit me!”

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for the ACLU to rediscover the meaning of civil liberties for all, not just the able-bodied and born.

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post to soften her heart and stop hiding eugenics behind the veil of “choice” and “complexity.”

This World Down Syndrome Day, I wish for a world in which every child is welcomed in life and protected by law, without regard to prenatal diagnosis.

Progress will come—but only if we work tirelessly for it.

Down Syndrome Abortion and the Courts

Above: Down Syndrome advocate Frank Stephens testifies before Congress

Last month, Ohio passed a law to prohibit doctors from committing abortions sought in response to a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Ohio is the third state to pass such a law. North Dakota was the first to do so; there, enforcement is made easier by the fact that there is only one abortion vendor in North Dakota, and it has not sued to overturn the law. The abortion industry did sue over Indiana’s ban on abortion for Down Syndrome, and Judge Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana struck it down in September; that ruling is now under appeal. A lawsuit seems likely in Ohio as well.

The ideal outcome would be for the Indiana and/or Ohio laws to be reviewed by a pro-life Supreme Court, which could use them as a vehicle to reverse Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. But we do not have a pro-life Supreme Court, and we cannot count on an anti-unborn Justice’s death or retirement to give us a pro-life Supreme Court during the time it will take Down Syndrome abortion bans to work their way up the judicial ladder.

This leaves the alternative path that the pro-life movement has pursued for decades: craft arguments to appeal to Justice Kennedy, who won’t overturn Roe but is prepared to accept the legality of at least some limits on abortion. It is Justice Kennedy who provided the deciding vote in favor of the partial-birth abortion ban, among other pro-life victories. However, he ruled against us in the fight to regulate abortion businesses like the medical facilities they claim to be.

How might Justice Kennedy rule in favor of Down Syndrome abortion bans? Simple: point out that they do not impact the core rationale of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Judge Pratt’s ruling in the Indiana case, while unfavorable, did a good job of summarizing this position:

The State’s argument begins with the woman’s liberty interest as articulated in Casey: “the right of the individual … to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” (Filing No. 76 at 26, citing Casey, 505 U.S. at 851 (emphasis added)). According to the State, “both the woman’s rights and the State’s interests are different if the pregnant woman decides she wants a baby generally, but not the particular baby she happens to be carrying. A woman has already decided to bear a child. Although her privacy and liberty interests have not completely evaporated, those rights are not as central as they once were.”

Judge Pratt rejected this argument, stating that the right to privacy prohibits any state “examination” of the “basis for a woman’s choice to make this private, personal and difficult decision.” But Judge Pratt’s reasoning proves far too much. It would render unconstitutional numerous state laws banning coerced abortion and requiring abortion businesses to screen for coercion, because coercion is a “basis” that the state “examines.” And laws requiring informed consent before an abortion can be committed—which the Supreme Court has upheld—could be seen as banning abortions sought solely on the basis of ignorance (e.g., the mistaken belief that an unborn child is “just a clump of cells”).

And if a woman has the right to choose not only whether to have a child, but what kind of child to have, wouldn’t that require all states to permit wrongful birth lawsuits to enforce that supposed right? Many states prohibit wrongful birth lawsuits, for very good reasons.

These arguments give Justice Kennedy a way to uphold bans on abortion on the basis of Down Syndrome, without upending his prior abortion jurisprudence. In plain English, he can do the right thing for children with Down Syndrome and still save face.