America? It’s like we’re living in 1930s Germany. Rising fascism, suppression of Christianity, hate crime laws, euthanasia and a climate more open to the prescribed disposal of the ‘undesirables’. Case in point, prenatal testing is now pushing parents to see the abortion of a disabled fetus more their duty and not just their right. Ethicists even go so far as to say it is a parent’s “moral obligation” to terminate pregnancy if the child is deigned disabled. Poor child. Why subject them to a life of inconvenience? That would be morally reprehensible. I suppose it’s better to just torture them slowly by pulling them apart, cutting them up, shredding them, scraping them out, crushing their skulls, burning them alive or suctioning them to pieces.
Tragically, it is estimated that as many as 90% of those babies who have been prenatally tested with Down syndrome are aborted. But there are some miracle stories out there and thankfully, Margaret is a living testament to the compassionate mores of her parents. Patricia Bauer, Margaret’s mom and a former writer for the Washington Post, has written a stirring article addressing some of the cultural roadblocks they face as a family and we as a nation.
Imagine. As 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. I know that most women of childbearing age that we may encounter have judged her and her cohort, and have found their lives to be not worth living.
To 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.
This view is probably particularly pronounced here in blue-state California, but I keep finding it everywhere, from academia on down. At a dinner party not long ago, I was seated next to the director of an Ivy League ethics program. In answer to another guest’s question, he said he believes that prospective parents have a moral obligation to undergo prenatal testing and to terminate their pregnancy to avoid bringing forth a child with a disability, because it was immoral to subject a child to the kind of suffering he or she would have to endure. (When I started to pipe up about our family’s experience, he smiled politely and turned to the lady on his left.)
While there are less and less children with Down syndrome being born today—not because of the miracle of medicine but because of the narcissism of man—Margaret is alive, beautiful and productive, and a high school grad who is attending college. Just imagine what this family—this world—would have been like without her.
And what of America? Not so much the land of the free anymore, and, as it turns out, we gotta be a lot more brave just to make this our home these days.