.- Former Washington Post writer Patricia E. Bauer summed up the rarely-discussed pre-natal testing issue well with the headline of her recent column: âThe Abortion Debate no one wants to have.â
Bauer is the mother of teenage Margaret--a child born with Down syndrome, and a constant reminder of what she sees as the slanted cultural view of children born with disabilities.
âWhenever I am out with Margaret,â she wrote, âIâm conscious that she represents a group whose ranks are shrinking because of the wide availability of prenatal testing and abortion. I donât know how many pregnancies are terminated because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome, but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent.â
She cited an overwhelming medical view, which suggests that parents have an obligation to undergo prenatal testing to determine whether their child might have a physical or mental disability, and therefore need to be terminated. She quoted an unnamed Ivy League ethics director who said that it was immoral to bring a disabled child into the world knowing âthe kind of suffering he or she would have to endure.â
Bauer, who lives with her family in California, lamented that âAs Margaret bounces through life, especially out here in the land of the perfect body, I see the way people look at her: curious, surprised, sometimes wary, occasionally disapproving or alarmed.â
âI know that most women of childbearing age that we may encounterâ, she said, âhave judged her and her cohort, and have found their lives to be not worth living.â
âTo them, Margaret falls into the category of avoidable human suffering. At best, a tragic mistake. At worst, a living embodiment of the pro-life movement. Less than human. A drain on society. That someone I love is regarded this way is unspeakably painful to me.â
Wake up call
Bauer states that the pre-natal testing question is âa small but nonetheless significant part of what's driving the abortion discussion in this country.â
âI have to thinkâ, she said, âthat there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families.â
The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have.â Commentator Daniel Pulliam agrees. He suggested in a recent blog on GetReligion.org, that the frequent abortion of Down syndrome, and otherwise disabled children is a story which the mainstream media needs to wake up to.
He expressed some hope however, that Bauerâs Washington Post piece would encourage members of the media âto explore the damage legal abortions have done to our society.â
Bauer recalled that âIn ancient Greece, babies with disabilities were left out in the elements to die. We in America rely on prenatal genetic testing to make our selections in private, but the effect on society is the same.â
The fact is, she says, there are numerous educational and medical reforms which are allowing people with disabilities to live much longer and healthier lives than they could 20 years ago.
However, âMargaret's old pediatricianâ, she wrote with a bit of irony, âtells me that years ago he used to have a steady stream of patients with Down syndrome. Not anymore. Where did they go, I wonder. On the west side of L.A., they aren't being born anymore, he says.â