Prenatal care for women and their babies has advanced at a stunning rate in recent decades. We now routinely peek into the womb and see babies sucking their thumbs, smiling, hiccuping, and doing back flips. Tests have been developed which allow parents and their doctors to detect abnormalities and can prepare a couple with a potentially high-risk pregnancy for a baby with special needs. We even have miraculous prenatal surgery that can repair serious conditions like spina bifida and return the baby to the womb to continue developing.
Unfortunately, these diagnostic, life-saving advances are not always matched by caring and informed advice. Sometimes doctors and society recommend that babies with disabilities pay the ultimate price of abortion for their conditions. On March 9th, 2018 the deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus, wrote an article entitled, “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.” Women like Courtney Baker, Natalie Halson and Stacy Connor were all advised to abort based on a prenatal diagnosis.
Because of this societal bias, from 1998 to 2011, data shows that 67 percent of women who receive a positive prenatal diagnosis for Down syndrome had an abortion. This is despite the fact that people with this condition routinely live happy, fulfilled lives.
Our nation’s laws protecting people against discrimination based on their disability are robust in areas like housing and employment, but woefully inadequate in the womb. Any right-minded person would be horrified if toddlers with newly acquired disabilities were killed because of their differences, or if war-wounded veterans were euthanized instead of honored and cared for.
Still, society shrugs when babies with disabilities are aborted simply because of their physical location inside their mother’s body and pro-abortion right’s activists continue to work against laws that would protect babies with disabilities from being targeted in utero.
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An Indiana law that would have protected pre-born disabled children was recently challenged by the abortion industry. In declining to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court signaled to people with disabilities that they are merely partial citizens, undeserving of full legal protection.
In a well-publicized concurring opinion Justice Thomas sounded a clarion call on the benefit of Indiana’s law, saying “…[T]his law and other laws like it promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.” He’s right. That pre-born children in our nation today can be ripped limb from torso because they don’t live up to society’s commoditized view of humanity is a worldview that must be rejected. Even the organization charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies on policies that affect people with disabilities, the National Council on Disability, has been eerily silent on disability-based abortions, instead of taking the bold, honorable stance that the womb is no place for discrimination.
It’s tragic, especially when there are courageous members of the community speaking out — people like Frank Stephens, who has Down syndrome. “Whatever you learn today, please remember this: I am a man with Down syndrome and my life is worth living,” Stephens said during congressional testimony that spread like wildfire on social media after he delivered the rousing statement. “We are giving the world a chance to think about the ethics of choosing which humans get a chance at life.”
To target people based on their productivity or ability is the height of ableism. Disability has no bearing on the human value that each of us possesses. For parents who feel they aren’t personally equipped to care for a baby who tests positive for a condition like Down Syndrome, spina bifida or another fetal anomaly, then adoption — not abortion — should be encouraged and celebrated.
We must respond to the ableist mentality that is leading to the genocide of children with special needs. A reaction of any other kind destroys our moral authority when it comes to defending human rights around the globe. It corrupts the fundamental principle of equality under the law that our nation was founded upon. And it robs all of us of the precious lives that would otherwise grace us with their presence.
Lila Rose is the founder and president of Live Action, a nonprofit organization devoted to ending the greatest human-rights abuse of our time: abortion. Follow her on Twitter, Daniel M. Gade, Ph.D., is a university professor and former member of the National Council on Disability. He is a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel.