As published in National Right to Life News Today on April. 18, 2013.
Systemically aborting babies deemed “different” or disabled is not only a reflect of intolerance and discrimination, it also deepens and embeds these ugly attitudes.
Just the other day, I was on a flight to Texas, when this realization hit me full force. It’s not the first time that it’s crossed my mind, and I know that I’m not the first person to reach this conclusion, but I think that it bears discussing.
For me, the extermination of individuals prenatally diagnosed with disabilities (even a suspicion of disabilities) is personal. Not just because I’m an abortion survivor, but also because I’m a mother who lost a unborn child at 11 weeks. A chromosomal abnormality ended Gabriel’s life in the womb. My husband Ryan and I were told that our son likely had Trisomy 18.
I shared in a series of articles published on LifeNews not long after we lost our son that I know that God created Gabriel exactly as he was, Trisomy 18 and all. I know that God didn’t take him away from us. He redeemed our loss of Gabriel by blessing us with lessons about life, loss, and love. He further solidified for us the sanctity of every life from the moment of conception.
Yet I won’t pretend that these lessons through loss were, or are, easy, or that they came to me quickly. The first Sunday after the miscarriage, I was still weighed down heavily with grief. I choked back tears as I watched families entering the sanctuary. I wanted to blend in with the crowd to avoid even speaking to anyone. I wondered if coming out of the house just a few days after the miscarriage was the right thing to do.
And then I saw him. A young man, about 20 years of age, was sitting with his mother. It was just the two of them, his arm wrapped affectionately around her shoulder. They were visibly joyous and loving. And I was, admittedly, jealous.
I thought that my heart might burst from the pain that I felt in losing Gabriel was intermingled with the joy that I felt watching these two interact. You see, this son had Down syndrome, and although Gabriel’s diagnosis was different, I felt an instant connection to them. I could identify with them and desperately wanted to be them.
I’ll be honest. In those first few weeks after we lost Gabriel, I walked through a valley of intense grief. Although I knew God was right there with us, supporting and guiding us, I had my moment of despair in which I questioned Him.
So as I watched this son and mother interact, my question of God was not “How could you have let this happen to us?” Quite the contrary, it was, “Don’t you trust me enough to care for our son with special needs? Am I somehow unworthy of having him here like this mother?”
Over the past 1 1/2 years, I’ve been healed from the pain of losing Gabriel (as healed as you can be), and I know that losing him was not because God saw me unfit to care for him. Yet I still long for him, and my eyes and heart are attuned to seeing mothers and sons like us in the world.
On that recent flight to Texas, I saw “us” again.
One row behind and to the left sat an adult son with Down syndrome and his mother. I cherished their laughter as they chatted away in their seats, straining to hear what they might have found so funny, without looking too obvious that I was listening in.
As the plane hit turbulence, I could hear the mother’s words as she tried to calm his nerves. As I glanced back at them, wistfully, thinking about our Gabriel and missing out on opportunities like this with him, I suddenly realized that I was not the only one watching this duo. But those others were looking with annoyance and disdain.
I could hear the loud whispers from the passengers across the aisle from me about how he was interrupting their sleep and that the mother should ‘make him be quiet.’ I watched as a man in the row ahead of me kept shaking his head and putting it in his hands whenever this young man would cry out and his mother would comfort him.
As I watched all of this occur, I couldn’t help but think about how our world today views lives both inside and outside of the womb that are “different” or disabled. We know that as many as 90% of children with Down syndrome are aborted. We know that children with even suspected medical issues are targeted for abortion, whether it’s a simple cleft palate or a complex heart problem. Anyone who may not fit the mold of society’s “normal” are, by and large, aborted.
Not only is this a tragic loss of human life, but I believe that this is a tragic loss to our world. By ending these lives, we surround ourselves, more often than not, by only those lives that are largely similar to our own. When we are surrounded by such sameness, it becomes more and more difficult for many to be appreciative and simply, even tolerable, of those who are different than them.
Maybe if 90% of all children with Down syndrome were born instead of aborted, the man on the plane shaking his head in annoyance would have had more opportunities to be around individuals with strengths and needs that are uniquely theirs. Maybe if those 90% of children with Down syndrome were born, the people on the plane complaining about the noise would have been more used to being around individuals who voice their discomfort and who are, in turn, comforted.
What a tragic disservice has been done to children, to families, and ultimately to our world, as a result of targeting children with disabilities for abortion. In a society that screams for tolerance and diversity, it seems as if we are in search of a rather homogenous society of the “perfect”. It is an ugly cycle: the more we abort children with disabilities, the fewer the opportunities to learn from them, the more ready we are to abort those who are “different.”
Until people respect, appreciate, and understand the importance of every human life, from the moment of conception and regardless of circumstance, they will be far less likely to see the importance of protecting them and allowing them to live. Ending the systemic abortion of lives deemed “different” or disabled is an important and integral first step in breaking this cycle of intolerance and discrimination.
As an abortion survivor, this fight to protect ALL human lives is personal. As a mother who was blessed with a son who would have been born with special needs, this fight is necessary.
Gabriel, fighting this side of the fight to end abortion, is in honor of you.