Physically Disabled People Deserve a Chance at Life, Not Condemned to Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 23, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Physically Disabled People Deserve a Chance at Life, Not Condemned to Abortion

by Maria Vitale Opinion Writer
April 23, 2010 Note: Maria Vitale is an opinion columnist for She is the Public Relations Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and Vitale has written and reported for various broadcast and print media outlets, including National Public Radio, CBS Radio, and AP Radio.

The couple had been anxiously awaiting the birth of their baby. There was no sonogram picture of him, so their first glimpse occurred after he had been delivered.

They were shocked by what they saw.

He had been born without arms and with shortened legs. This was not what they had expected.

The doctor had worked heroically to ensure that the baby would be born and that his mother would survive. However, after the physician determined to himself that the baby would be “better off dead,” little Chet McDoniel was placed in a crib in a corner of the room and left to die.

But Chet survived. In fact, he thrived.

During a recent appearance at a fundraising banquet benefiting Morning Star Pregnancy Services in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he remarked, “The doctor made a decision he didn’t have the right to make.”

Chet’s parents were told that he would never walk, but he proved the doctors wrong.

“I’ve enjoyed the life I’ve been given,” Chet says.

Granted, he does face challenges. He cannot walk long distances, so he uses a wheelchair. He must use his feet to drive and to type—but for him, that’s normal.

He fully recognizes that, in this age of extensive prenatal testing and ultrasounds, someone like him could easily be aborted. But, as he told the hundreds of people gathered at the Pennsylvania pregnancy center banquet, “We cannot know what life will bring.”

Chet has made a fascinating life for himself, giving inspirational speeches and running his own travel agency. He has a wife and a daughter, and he graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Texas with a degree in radio, television, and film production.

In a blog entry, he noted how he had given motivational talks recently at two middle schools:

“I challenged each school to participate in ‘Smile Day’ on Monday. Each student in the two schools has been given the task of smiling all day long this coming Monday in an effort to act their way into feeling happy. I give them this challenge to experiment with on a Monday because that’s the hardest day to smile, and if you can be happy on a Monday, you can be happy all week long. Happiness is a choice that each and every one of us has to make every day, and these students will CHANGE the attitudes in their schools if they succeed in smiling all day on Monday.”

State authorities labeled Chet McDoniel catastrophically handicapped because of his disabilities. But with each speech he gives and each connection he makes, he proves himself to be a catalyst for positive change.

Before his appearance at Morning Star, a rainbow appeared in the sky above the hotel—an appropriate sign of hope for a man who demonstrates that disability should never be a disqualifier for life.

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