FaithZette

Babies with Down Syndrome Deserve Protection Before Birth

'Disability and its healing serve God's good purpose, bringing Him glory among those who witness' the Lord's work in our lives

His mother left Simon alone in the woods in winter, a practice many parents choose when a child is born disabled in China.

But Simon didn’t die.

He was rescued and placed in an orphanage, and eventually adopted by Elizabeth and Dan, pioneers of special-needs adoption in China. Dan shared their story with us for our radio feature, Cradle My Heart Today.

Dan credits his American mother’s very different response to having a child with Down syndrome for his easy acceptance of Simon’s different needs. And while we may not abandon babies here, a high percentage of parents will abort when they hear a prenatal diagnosis of the genetic disorder.

Disability is somehow part of God’s good plan for us as humans. It is often in and through disabled people that God’s glory shines. In John 9, Jesus said that was the case when He healed a man born blind. Disability and its healing serve God’s good purpose, bringing Him glory among those who witness God’s working in our lives.

It may go against our idea of a good and kind God to think that some are intentionally afflicted with disabilities.

But God knows their needs, and ours, beyond ways we can understand in our human limitations.

The Washington Post declared that “babies with Down syndrome are taking center stage in the U.S. abortion fight.” The story covered anti-discrimination legislation that is being passed in many states to outlaw abortion after a prenatal diagnosis of the nonfatal disorder.

You’d think, in today’s U.S. climate of inclusion and sensitivity to differences, that basic protection for the disabled from state-sanctioned killing would be a no-brainer.

But you’d be wrong.

Abortion advocates argue that saving the disabled from being killed for being disabled is somehow unkind, unless a lifetime of services is also guaranteed by government funding. (The Washington Post cites a call for funding for social services, medical coverage, and other support for people with Down syndrome.) Mind you, abortion proponents are not working to secure those benefits for anyone. They are simply using that assertion as a pretext for aborting healthy babies.

Abortion-as-kindness serves as an effective strategy to soothe the conscience of the average person who has no firsthand knowledge of the lives of people with Down syndrome. It plays into ignorant and outdated stereotypes of a less-than-human with no intellectual capacity, consigned to a lifetime of suffering; better to end all that before their birth. Or, maybe as a bystander, you know a family making accommodation for a disabled child, and you see the toll it takes and believe somehow, they’d be better off without that burden. Underneath these attitudes rests a fear of being asked to accept what we may find unacceptable.

Related: A Daring New Look at the Unborn Child

The truth is, in our heart of hearts many believe it’s better for us if there are fewer disabled in our midst.

These challenges are not just an abstraction for those of us whose families include people with Down syndrome. Nina Fuller told us she was shocked to learn she was pregnant again after raising three sons. After hearing the baby likely had Down syndrome and cardiac issues, Nina developed heart problems of her own.

But she determined she would take whatever God had in store for them, preserving and treating the baby first, come what may.

That determination was forged at age 12 when Nina became the surrogate mother to her four younger siblings due to parental abandonment and alcohol abuse. The strength she found as a special sort of parent back then set the stage for tackling the special needs of the children she is raising and advocating for now.

My own journey as legal guardian to my brother-in-law, Brian, has been marked by many shame-filled moments of lost patience and a less-than-loving heart. That’s why I say Down syndrome is a mirror — I’ve found it will show your character quickly. It’s not only a mirror, of course: It’s a condition that requires real compassion, real acceptance and respect, and real celebration of those who have it. But it will also accurately reflect your actual values and heart toward others who have limitations that may be more obvious than your own. As a new grandparent to Jonas, who has Down syndrome, I am so grateful for a fresh chance to receive the love he brought with him into our world.

If killing children for a genetic condition is not a human rights violation — nothing is.

Of course, many good-hearted parents may find that they are simply ill-equipped to raise a child with Down syndrome. Reece’s Rainbow and other organizations are working to facilitate adoption for these children, linking them with forever families.

Today we call abortion for a diagnosed disability compassion in the name of women’s rights. But who will champion the children?

If killing children for a genetic condition is not a human rights violation — nothing is.

Yet too many of us still believe that the physically weaker members of society carry a negative value and thus should be destroyed before they are even given a chance to live. Eugenics abortion of the disabled is happening on a worldwide scale. In the U.S. and elsewhere, the majority of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome will be aborted; in the U.K., club foot can carry a death sentence; in India, it’s a cleft palate. None of these conditions is life-threatening, but each may demand lifestyle adjustments parents are unable or unwilling to make.

Related: For the Love of Down Syndrome and Other Infants

Let’s have a heart for all involved by supporting special-needs adoptions and protecting children diagnosed as disabled before their births.

Kim Ketola is the host and executive producer of Cradle My Heart Today, a companion to her award-winning book of the same title. Her radio work earned her induction into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2013. Cradle My Heart Productions Inc., based in Atlanta, is a safe space for listeners to connect with others who are finding God’s love — especially during unintended pregnancy and after abortion.