by Laura Echevarria
September 19, 2007
LifeNews.com Note: Laura Echevarria is the former Director of Media Relations and a spokesperson for the National Right to Life Committee and has been a radio announcer, freelance writer active in local politics. She is a new opinion columnist for LifeNews.com.
After I perused the school fundraiser catalogue, the student/seller, one of my daughter’s neighborhood playmates, asked me to explain something Gabrielle had said about her two brothers.
The explanation involved Gabrielle’s experiences with both her brothers and their autism. Included in this was a story about my pregnancy with our middle child, Peter. Doctors thought at one point that Peter might have Down syndrome.
I told the little girl, whom I will call “Emma,” about Peter and the suspicions that he might have been “very special and different” when he was born. Had Emma’s response come from an adult, I probably would have not been surprised. But I was shocked when she said something along the lines of, “But you wouldn’t want a baby like that.”
Although stunned, I very calmly replied, “Oh, but I did. Very much so. I loved Peter and nothing was going to change that.”
What is there in our culture that is so pervasive that a seven year-old girl could believe that a special needs baby isn’t as wanted as a “normal” baby? I know we live in a culture that increasingly embraces death, but you would think a second-grader would have been spared exposure to the dehumanization of the less-than-perfect.
I know that as Emma gets older, she will be flooded with messages that say that it’s okay, if not almost mandatory, to reject people who are “different” or with special needs. The irony is hard to miss.
Even while our schools and government work to create a climate of acceptance for children and adults with disabilities, there is an elitist strain in our society that pushes women to think twice about having a child with special needs. (Perhaps a better way of putting it is that the pressure is not to think at all!)
Ideas do have consequences! For example, it is virtually expected that when a diagnosis of Down syndrome or spina bifida is made, parents not only will likely seek an abortion but should.
No matter how hard pro-lifers work to reveal Planned Parenthood’s anti-life, quasi-racist ideology, PPFA enjoys a good reputation with large parts of our society. So when Planned Parenthood purrs reassuringly about “every child a wanted child,” it is treated as coming from a disinterested party.
In truth, such buzz phrases play on the universal and normal fears every newly pregnant mother has. No wonder that many people assume that a child should be born only if the parents are living in perfect circumstances.
Planned Parenthood is very media-savvy and is taking its sick philosophy directly to young girls. Its slick pre-teen/teen targeted websites push this discriminatory viewpoint on younger and younger children.
In response to a girl who identifies herself as a middle-schooler, the editors of Planned Parenthood’s teenwire.com suggested that she ask herself the following questions about her pregnancy:
— Am I ready to help a child feel wanted and loved 24 hours a day for the next 18 years and beyond?
— Can I talk about my feelings and other important things with the father of the child, my partner, family, and friends? Will I have their support?
— Am I ready to accept full responsibility for parenting and go it alone, if it becomes necessary? Will I have enough money to support myself and a child?
— Am I mature enough to keep from harming the child physically or emotionally? (I won’t ridicule, humiliate, slap, hit, shake, or threaten my child no matter what happens, no matter how frustrated I get.)
— Am I ready to seek whatever counseling I need to become a better parent?
— Am I ready to give up my social life with my friends to take care of my baby?
— Am I ready to put my school or career plans on hold?
Well, wow, now there’s a positive and supportive response to a crisis pregnancy!
On their websites that target teens and pre-teens, PPFA not only introduces the idea of abortion as a socially acceptable response to a crisis pregnancy, but makes it seem almost hip. Surely a child must be “wanted” before he or she can enter our world. This, of course, is also marketed as "best" for the child!
No one denies that a crisis pregnancy is a serious and life-altering event. But to stop the analysis there is to miss what is crucial: that we are dealing with both a mother and her baby, a separate, living and unique individual.
It’s sad to think that Emma has already absorbed the toxic notion that a child needs to be wanted before he or she can be born–and that a child with special needs not only is abnormal but could/should never be "wanted."
There are loud and persuasive voices at work in Emma’s life and, the older she gets, the louder those voices will become.
I hope my conversation with this little girl made a difference and that she will remember the heart of what I said. I hope Emma walked away with the full assurance that there are people who accept children, embrace them and love them—regardless of their condition before or after birth.