My brother is nine years old. His favorite day of the week is Saturday (pancakes for breakfast). He plays on a Little League baseball team. He likes to read his own bedtime stories and write his name on everything.
He has Down Syndrome.
He is the reason the controversy over abortion makes me ache.
Amniocentesis is the prenatal test that detects genetic anomalies early in pregnancy. It is hardly invasive, largely accurate, and strongly recommended for expecting women over 35 years (American Academy of Pediatrics). With such technology available, parents have more preparation time and are, arguably, more equipped to welcome a child with disabilities into the world. According to the New York Times, however, 90% of women who receive a Down Syndrome diagnosis, via amniocentesis, abort (Harmon 1).
My nightmare, realized: abortion is a woman’s guarantee that her unborn baby won’t have some “defect” that tarnishes her silvery vision of the “perfect” family with the Sunday bike rides to the swimming pool, the video-taped second grade plays, and the Harvard diploma proudly framed on the wall. Raising a child with a disability does not, perhaps, fulfill the standard expectations of what a child should be. But the unborn potential in that fetus to exceed expectations demands the chance to be realized.
Sometimes abortion seems merciful. No one wants a child, once born, to experience pain. But we need to understand that despite all our pre-birth testing, we can never predict the character of an unborn child, or the quality of its projected life.
Down Syndrome is hardly the only reason women abort. Poverty, medical complications, rape, fear: desperation is like a spur in the side. Abortion offers salvation, no strings attached.
Except for the moral heartstrings torn in denying a life the chance to unfold.
And yet I can’t guiltlessly give the government rights over a woman’s body, and I doubt that any law could prevent a desperate woman from resorting to a potentially unsafe termination. If banning abortion does not “solve” any problem, the government is helplessly irrelevant. Government should instead strive to make abortion obsolete: alleviate pressure on pregnant women, improve the economic and social poverties that provoke abortion, promote acceptance of disabilities.
My brother constantly reminds me of what abortion can take away. Though I uneasily recognize its political necessity, I can never accept abortion morally.