Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ds and Abortion

In one of the Ds communities I belong to, a number of mothers with children with Ds expressed their wish for the Duggars to have a baby with Ds, so that people would see a family welcome a child with Ds into their home and see how wonderful our children are. They were flamed because of this and were told that is was abhorrent and other horrendous things. I wanted to express my feelings on this in a little more detail.

Ds is not a disease. It is not a defect. It is not a horrible condition. It is a chromosomal anomaly. It does not doom your child to anything. It is not abhorrent to want people to have children with Ds, it is just a wish, like any other. It is certainly not akin to wishing someone's child to have heart disease or be born extremely prematurely. A while ago, someone had likened the severity of Ds to that of balding and I immediately thought it was more like gender. How male or female is your child? Then I started wondering just how many genes are on the 21st chromosome.
I attempted to look up the genetic difference between a female, a male, and a female with Ds. There are a lot of huge variations in the estimates. Because I no longer have free access to the medical sites that I did when I was working in the medical/drug field, I turned to the oh-so-trustworthy internet. I found that the government Genetics home reference site estimates that there are 70-200 genes on the y chromosome and there are 300-400 genes on the 21st chromosome.

As for wishing a child has Ds, I don't see too much difference from wishing that your child is male. A male child, like a child with Ds, has a higher chance of having medical problems than your female child. They have a higher chance of having learning disabilities and other non-medical issues. I would also liken it to wishing your child that has fair skin. There are a few advantages to having fair skin, like being able to see cancers and skin problems easier, but by far, having fair skin requires a lot of special care to prevent problems, like the stated skin cancer, wrinkling, or premature aging. Ds is the same, special care is necessary. The bald analogy is also apt. It is considered an undesirable trait, but there is truly nothing medically wrong about it and many people do find it attractive (I'm am certainly one).

I have also stated in the past that i
f you're not cut out to be a parent to a child with Down syndrome (or any other disability), then you're not cut out to be a parent at all. There are no special skills needed that are not required for any parent. If you are expending the necessary energy to ensure your child is achieving his or her potential, then you will find that no extra time or energy is required, and you might find that less is. The problem is (as one friend so eloquently put it) that some parents are good caretakers of their kids but not necessarily good parents.

There are a huge amount of advantages to having a child with Ds:
You can enjoy each stage of childhood longer.
People with Ds have as much as 50% less chance of getting all but one form of cancer and that form is the only one to spontaneously go away and it has an 80% survival rate.
They are not likely to be criminals or participate in criminal activities of any sort.
Siblings of people with Down syndrome are proven to be more compassionate than those without.
Parents of children with Down syndrome experience greater well being
(less depression) than the general population.
Divorce rates in parents already married when a child with Down syndrome is born are lower than the general population.
People with Down syndrome tend to not attempt to lie or deceive others.
They have more compassion and empathy than the general population.
I'm certain that other mothers can certainly add to this list.

People with Ds can accomplish the same things that any other person accomplishes. They are in the National Honor Society. They get college degrees. They get married. They become Eagle Scouts. They have children. They are artists, musicians, actors, public motivational speakers, self-advocates, writers, businessmen, and so much else. They may not be neurosurgeons or aerospace engineers, but are other children really capable of that, and there is no telling what more acceptance would help them to achieve.

The way I see it is that there are 3 viewpoints about abortion. One is that abortion is murder and unacceptable. The second it that abortion is not murder and so there is nothing wrong with it. The last is that abortion is murder but that it is acceptable while the child is in the womb. I think that there are two viewpoints on aborting a child with Down syndrome. The first is that again abortion is murder and you should never murder a child regardless of any other point. The second is that it is okay to abort a child if you don't like its characteristics, whether it is a disability, gender, skin color, intellectual ability, sexual preference, propensity for a certain weight, or other undesirable trait. Abortion of a child with these traits is eugenics and something Hitler would certainly approve of.

I image that I've offended a number of people with this post and I imagine
I might lose some facebook friends and readers by this post. I'm not interested in arguing the semantics of how I stated things, and unless you have some convincing arguement that my premise is wrong, I'm not going to respond. I just wanted to express that Ds isn't the end of the world, it is just the opposite, a beginning of a whole new one, and if you give it a chance you will find it to be a wonderful one. There is a reason that mothers of children with Ds band together and they all state the same thing regardless of ethnic background, religion, or beliefs on abortion (that our children are blessings and have just as much a right to be here as everyone else) and that is because we have experienced this blessing and know it to be true.

I have one last comment. Mothers of children are quick to be defensive of our little ones. There is a reason for this. It is because we experience bigotry against our children very early on. Sometimes before we have left the hospital we have heard horrible things against our babies. It isn't long before someone tells us that not only would they have aborted theirs, you should have aborted yours. You hear things like you shouldn't waste money on surgery or special care for your child, you should let them die if they have any problems at all. They are compared to dogs that should be put to sleep. Of course, we are quickly defensive.

No one is worth more or less than any other person, even one with Ds, and variation is what makes life interesting.


  1. Well put. My only semantics argument is that Ds isn't a change/variation within the chromosome, but rather the addition of an extra 21st chromosome (or additional partial chromosome). :D

    I especially agree with your point that if you're not able/willing to parent a child with special needs that you shouldn't be a parent at all. AMEN.

    Have you ever seen the essay called "Welcome to Holland," which is about parenting a special needs child? This post reminded me of it. The comment thing won't let me paste a link, but if you Google it, it comes up/