“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"A More Perfect Society"

In the July 2005 Christianity Today, there is an editorial piece by Angela Beise entitled, "A More Perfect Society: Why I wouldn't want to live there." In the article, Ms. Beise describes an interaction with an itinerant teacher she used for her son with disabilities while she was living in France. She begins the article by stating that in France, the "the society in general isn't friendly to the disabled. In our area of Paris alone, there are 300 special needs children on a waiting list for a place in a school." She then goes on to state the following.
As she (the teacher) was leaving our house after a therapy session, she advised us to apply to a couple of schools that are specifically for children with Down syndrome, even though Michael does not have Down. Then she made the shocking statement, "Schools for Down children are starting to take children with other syndromes since Down is becoming so rare," she said. "Now that tests can tell so early in pregnancy that a baby has Down, few people are choosing to have them."

Amazing when our choices come home to roost. A world without people with down syndrome. I know a lot of people with that particular syndrome, and I pray that people like them will always be in the world. They are some of the kindest, most friendly people you could ever want to meet. But our world misunderstands who they are and in the name of "quality of life" chooses abortion. They are comparatively easy to be rid of as well. Not to say that abortion is easy, but the diagnoses which have become routine make an unborn child with down syndrome easy to identify.

And doctors are telling us that they should just be aborted or at least offering tests for down syndrome should the conditions be right (they are required by law to do so!) and another pregnancy attempted. Other groups who I refuse to even mention in this blog talk about choice in pregnancy. All I can say is this is evil. Can I be more blunt than to label the complete obliteration of persons with down syndrome from the world as nothing less than evil. One need only read about the history of doctor recommendations in relation to institutions for persons with mental retardation to recognize that they can be not only wrong, but contributors to outcomes which reflect the very worst that man is capable of.

As a medical student (I later flunked out of medical school) I took a class in genetics. The genetics professor was giving a lecture on down syndrome, as it is caused by having 3 copies of chromosome 21 instead of the typical 2 copies. In the discussion, he made the statement, "It is important to remember that people with down syndrome are people." For a moment I rejoiced at his statement. But then he followed it up with, "And some of them may actually develop a personality." One of the greatest things about persons with down syndrome is their wonderful personalities. I wondered how many people this guy actually knew with down syndrome to be able to make such a rediculous statement. But these are the kinds of people who are making recommendations to families about down syndrome in terms of prevention and abortion. These are the people who are delivering the diagnosis to parents and families with a total lack of understanding of who these individuals are.

I can criticize doctors and I can criticize the French (that actually seems to be in vogue now) but I wonder where the church is in all this. What is the church's position on down syndrome, for example? Would most pastors even know what it was, or the effects it has on individuals, or what to say to families who had a child with down syndrome born to them?

I wonder if the church in its attitudes towards persons with disability and its lack of knowledge about persons with disability may actually support a position of aborting children with down syndrome, or at least a position that the abortion of a disabled child is somewhat more understandable, or less worthy of condemnation than the abortion of any other child.

As sad as I was to see the piece in Christianity Today because of the story it told, I was also happy to think that maybe stories such as the one told by Ms. Beise would be another step in waking the church to its responsibility towards all of humanity.

The abortion of children with down syndrome is nothing more than a new form of eugenics. Perhaps we are not out to purify the human race, at least not overtly, but the systematic abortion of a particular group of people, people who are lovely people generally, because we don't understand them, or have no experience with them, or project some feelings we might have about what their lives might be like on them, all of which are misinformed is evil and wrong. It is time for the church to rise up in defense of these individuals. The church should be providing counseling about what down syndrome is, and include persons with down syndrome routinely in the congregation. Church people should be at the beside at the birth of a child with down syndrome and begin their interactions by saying, "Children with down syndrome are a gift from God! Bring them to us, we will love them and their families."


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