Help for Pregnant Women (Updated)
What I actually wanted to say in response to this article about parents undergoing prenatal screening for Down Syndrome justifying their intent to have an abortion if the test came back positive:
All the horrible implications of these statements aside, these parents are expressing what they believe having a child with Down Syndrome will be like. Though all the quotes in the article are about how difficult, undesirable, or “unfair” this situation will be for the parents, it’s also common to hear justifications for aborting babies with Down’s (or other disabilities) based on how much the children themselves will allegedly suffer.
And for the most part, these people aren’t just making excuses. They really believe that a life with Down Syndrome is a life of horrible suffering, and that having a child with Down’s is an unbearable burden.
But, for the most part, these people don’t actually know anyone with Down Syndrome, either.
They may know a lot about Down Syndrome or other disabilities - all the things people with that disability can’t do, all the medical challenges they will face. But they don’t actually know people with these disabilities as people. The disabled child is, in their minds, reduced to the disability.
And when the special education programs intended to help such children keep them largely isolated from their neurotypical, able-bodied peers, is it any wonder?
When people with disabilities are marginalized from infancy, the result is that most members of the mainstream society will never interact with them, therefore they will never get to know them, therefore they will never have the opportunity to develop compassion towards them. It is this marginalization which fosters the attitude that disabled children are nothing but a burden, that their lives are not worth living, that it would be immoral not to kill them before they are born. It is this attitude which leads to 75 to 94 percent of children with Down Syndrome being aborted, depending on the country. This wholesale elimination of children with Down’s in turn increasingly marginalizes the survivors, as their decreased numbers make it even less likely that the average person will ever interact with them. And on the cycle goes.
I believe that the least restrictive environment approach to special education does improve the quality of education that children with disabilities receive. But the inclusion of these children in the mainstream classroom also serves the crucial function of bringing them out of the margins. Only by increasing their interactions with their disabled peers can mainstream children learn compassion towards them, and only by learning compassion can they learn to value the disabled as people.
One of the most horrifying quotes cited in the article, in my opinion, was this:
It’s devastating, it’s a waste, all the love that goes into kids like that.
As if loving a child could ever be a waste.