“Iceland is on the verge of eliminating Down Syndrome”
There are many articles, which have been all over social media this week, voicing opinions on a CBSN article. It reported on anti-natal testing for Down Syndrome in Iceland and the results for the makeup of their society. Some articles suggested that Iceland is effectively eliminating Down Syndrome. A number of the articles addressed inaccuracies and added clarifying information, like this one from The Gospel Coalition.
As the mother of a young man (12) with Down Syndrome my reactions to these news articles have been varied. Some of those reactions have been “mama bear” responses. But some of them have been trying to work through issues in my own mind about our response to disability and abortion as Christians.
In the comments under these articles there were recurring themes.
There were many who could only see the negative and expressed it forthrightly. Most of these did not see a fetus as a person and argued this strongly. There were those who viewed continuing a pregnancy when you know the child has DS as equivalent to abuse. The common belief was that people with DS suffer more than others in society. Many held the view that, while children who had DS might be cute and cuddly, they grew into people who were worse than useless, a burden on society. Another common view was that a woman had the right to decide that she didn’t want to “condemn” herself to a life of caring for someone who would always be dependent on her.
On the other side, many focused on the great blessing people with Down Syndrome are. Comment after comment mentioned how sweet, loving, and giving people with DS are. Other comments mentioned the blessing parents, siblings and the wider communities received from having a person with Down syndrome in their midst. Still others commented on the wonderful quality of life people with Down Syndrome are able to have these days. It was heartening to see how many out there had a positive view of Down Syndrome.
There were also those who held to the view that abortion was always wrong. Some expressed this eloquently and gently…but firmly. Others were more antagonistic about it. Threatening judgement and condemnation. Labeling those who chose abortion as murderers and monsters.
Does Quality of Life = Right to LIfe?
As I read all the comments I felt a certain level of discomfort over those who argued strongly for good quality of life, for happy, loving individuals, for wonderful blessings in the shape of an extra chromosome. Why? Because, the reality you see, is that for all the happy, loving, active, joyful people with DS out there, there are also those who don’t make it through childhood. Others who are grumpy and stubborn and make life difficult. There are those in this world who live with discrimination and abuse and hardship. Just like in the wider population… only for different reasons. Does the existence of those with DS who don’t fit the “blessings” picture undermine the very thing commenters were arguing? I think there is a danger of relying on this line of argument.
You see, it bothers me that I might have to justify my son’s existence by explaining how capable he is, or what a blessing he is to my family. It feels like my other kids just got to exist because they were ‘normal’ but somehow my son with Downs has to go the extra mile and prove his worth. He IS a blessing to my family BUT so are my other 4 kids. And they ALL cause my husband and I heartache, stress and worry. God designed all my children to be a blessing. Not because they can run and jump and play. Not because they will be able to leave home and function independently one day. (I am praying that is the case anyway!) Not because they have special skills with which they can benefit society. They are a blessing because each one of them is who God created them to be.
What is the right response?
Does that mean, as Christians, we need to stop trying to “talk up” life with Downs. That we should only argue from the perspective of the morality of abortion and an inherent right to life, even in the womb? That, our only valid response is “Abortion is wrong.”
As I have thought through things this week my mind went to Proverbs 26:4-5. (NIV)