Disabled Student Whose Parents Were Told to Abort Becomes Ms. Wheelchair America

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 19, 2016   |   2:25PM   |   Washington, DC

A young Utah woman whose parents were told to abort her because she would be a “vegetable” just proved that every life deserves a chance.

Eliza McIntosh, a 21-year-old wheelchair-bound college student from Salt Lake City, recently was named Ms. Wheelchair America after she broke a world record in athletics, the Mirror reports.

“This is the first year I’ve been old enough to participate, so it’s crazy but an absolute honor to be crowned Ms. Wheelchair America,” McIntosh said. “I was surprised to represent my state and then even getting into the top five was a massive achievement.”

McIntosh has spinal dysgenesis and is paralyzed from the waist down, according to the report. She hopes her life story will encourage other people with disabilities to see themselves as valuable and to pursue their dreams.

It’s what her parents did for her. Before she was born, doctors advised McIntosh’s parents to abort her because of her diagnosis. The family’s doctors predicted that Eliza would be in “a vegetative state” and have “no quality of life.”

“But my parents are very religious, so are against abortions regardless, and their attitude was ‘this is the hand we’ve been dealt with, so we’ll play it as well as we can’,” the young woman said. “They weren’t going to let me die, they decided to modify our home to make it more accessible and have never treated me any differently.”

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The doctors were wrong. McIntosh has used a wheelchair for her whole life, but her condition is much less severe than the doctors predicted.

McIntosh said her parents never let her mope and always encouraged her to challenge herself.

“They instilled in me that I should know the difference between having a disability and being disabled,” she said. “Having a disability is something you’re born with, but being disabled means you let it stop you.”

Because of her parents’ encouragement and her determination, in 2011 McIntosh broke the Guinness World Record for the longest distance traveled while doing a wheelie. She held herself up for more than 12 miles, according to the report. The young athlete also plays wheelchair basketball for the USA Paralympic team.

“Both of my parents have always been a great inspiration, they never told me I couldn’t do anything, we’ve always found a way around any difficulties I’ve had,” she said.

Through her award as Ms. Wheelchair America, McIntosh said she hopes to travel throughout the U.S. “to show other people there are a lot of advantages that come with your wheelchair. I want people to use their voice to better the position of our community.”

Stephanie Deible, director of Ms. Wheelchair America, said McIntosh is a strong example to people with disabilities.

“She’s broken a Guinness World Record, is an avid wheelchair basketball player and is out there trying to show people that life with a disability can be just as fulfilling as life without one,” Deible said.

And her story is showing people that every unborn baby deserves a chance at life.