Last week, a remarkable article was posted in the New York Times, by a mother who had refused prenatal testing during her pregnancy. The woman in question, Amy Becker, is the mother of a child with Down syndrome and has recently discovered that her 3rd child to be born is 1/100 likely to also have Down syndrome.
I recall my high school teacher asking my class one day, “Have you kids noticed the significant decrease of down-syndrome children over the years?” It was later that I discovered that this was not because scientists had found some miraculous cure for the chromosomal disease, but rather an alternative to the problem: death. This death is a choice made by several fearing mothers who are faced with the legal and ‘perfectly safe’ option of killing their child.
Prenatal diagnostic testing is composed of several tests during the course of the gestational period that allows the doctor to examine the fetus before birth and inform the mother of any deformations or chronic diseases, such as Down syndrome. Originally, these tests were administered to mentally prepare the woman for what was to come, and in this case, prenatal testing was more helpful than harmful. However, 80-90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome during prenatal testing are aborted (says Sam Brownback, past US Senator).
Amy states her biggest fear as she walked into the doctor’s office was not finding out whether the baby in her womb had an abnormal count of chromosomes, but rather talking to the doctor himself about prenatal testing:
[When pregnant with her second child] I agreed to an ultra-screen…I told myself that I wanted to know if the baby had a healthy heart. But the literature about the test explains that…it wasn’t offering me a chance to know the physical health of my baby so much as providing me a choice about whether to continue my pregnancy if the baby had Down syndrome.
Even Senator Brownback, in his PRENATALLY DIAGNOSED CONDITIONS AWARENESS ACT in 2005 states, “We don’t want a world where parents feel driven to justify their children’s existence.”
Prenatal testing is given as a recommended option simply to put the mother’s future in front of her and ask a very simple question: “Yes, or no?” In other words, “Is this child worth your time, or would you like to try again another time?” Without denying the hardships and sacrifices of having a child with Down syndrome, Amy continues to talk about her friends’ experiences as well as her own with doctors who pressure women to abort. If euthanasia was not enough to eliminate the “burdensome” in society, eugenics certainly is not far behind.
The way these tests are administered, the way information is provided to women and the way our culture talks about individuals with chromosomal abnormalities, contribute to my concern that prenatal testing more often serves to devalue all human life and to offer parents and doctors an illusion of control.
I strongly encourage you to read Amy’s very reasonable testament to society’s misinformed view of the “horror” of Down syndrome. She is one of few who manage to see the positive light that comes out of sacrifice, and that every life is a life worth living.
Read the comments at the University of Toronto Students for Life website.