There is a desire within many women to have children. It is a woman's right to have children if they are so able to conceive them. Many of us accept this right. There is no one in America forcing abortions nor are there laws limiting pregnancies or the number of children one mother can have. If a woman here chooses to have a baby, then they are generally supported under almost every circumstance.
Medical advances have even allowed women struggling to conceive to achieve pregnancy when they couldn't otherwise do it on their own. Fertility treatments are accepted in our society. There is support for the idea that we believe that all women should have the opportunity to bear children.
But what happens to that woman after there is a successful pregnancy?
Is it reasonable to expect a healthy and typically developing fetus?
Where do rights end and entitlements begin?
When it comes to pregnancies and Down syndrome, there seems to be a worldview that can't be denied. As I have previously written about, Iceland has a 100% abortion rate when a fetus is prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. 100%!
Other statistics also show the majority of women will choose termination of the pregnancy when Down syndrome is diagnosed. I have read many reasons that women give for this decision:
-They believe a child with Down syndrome would not enjoy their life.
-They believe they would not be capable of taking care of a child with special needs.
-The woman feels there is a stigma associated with being a parent/family of a child with special needs.
-Doctors encourage the women that they can easily try again.
-The women believe their child's life span will be shortened.
-The women have great fears about their child's future and possible complications.
-They believe they will be raising this child for the rest of their lives.
-The condition is not reversible and the severity of problems cannot be predicted.
-They believe it is the best thing for their child.
-They believe that raising this child would be too costly.
Beyond termination rates, there seems to be increasing pressures around the world to not judge those who choose termination and accept the individual's choice in the matter. In November of last year, France banned a telecast of a short video called "Dear Future Mom," which showed people with Down syndrome leading happy and productive lives. The Council of State declared the video “inappropriate” for television broadcast because it is “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices,” i.e., those who had aborted their babies with Down syndrome. An article on the Huffington Post recently reported that the Netherlands Minister of Health had this to say in regards to Non Invasive Prenatal Testing that will be available to all pregnant women there, “If freedom of choice results in a situation that nearly no children with Down syndrome are being born, society should accept that.”
No ma'am. I will not accept that.
As I have read through many stories on increasing abortion rates in countries who mandate prenatal screenings, I am left with one question.
What are women entitled to?
And that question sparks other questions:
Are women entitled to healthy babies?
When a woman decides to get pregnant, should that mother acknowledge that there is a certain amount of "risk" involved?
Doesn't parenting any child involve challenges and risks?
Is an abortion really merciful if you take away any chance the child had at life?
Should women determine if a diagnosis warrants a death sentence?
How is the proposed worth of life being determined?
Are women who hold strong convictions about equality committing discrimination against their own children when they choose termination?
I realize that these are not easy questions and generate a wide variety of answers.
I do believe though that EVERY fetus has a right to life. That is a right that should not be denied. The idea that should change is a woman's entitlement to a healthy child. That should not be a guarantee because it is unnatural to expect perfection.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I never feared having a child with any problems. I did not want prenatal testing because I wasn't going to terminate no matter the outcome. (That was still true for the pregnancy with my son later.) However, I never thought disability in any form would happen to my child.
When my daughter was born with Down syndrome and heart defects, I did have to work through many emotions and thoughts I had in my life about justice and fairness. I learned just how selfish my heart was. I felt I deserved a healthy child because I was a good person and a person of faith. When my expectation did not match up to reality, I had to come to understand some flawed ideas in my personal worldview.
Through my experience with my daughter, I understood that no one is guaranteed perfection in life. I had no control over the gender of the baby or its physical development. When I became pregnant, there were a million different things that could have went wrong (or right) with my baby. Down syndrome was something that could have happened to anyone's pregnancy, but it occurred with mine. There are no guarantees in life. I was never entitled to a perfect, healthy baby even though the odds were in my favor.
Here's something that my husband and I want you to know:
It is much more compassionate to give your life in service to another human being than to never give that person an opportunity to exist.
Don't be afraid of a diagnosis. Don't be afraid of the life you will lead. You are stronger than you think. Your capacity to love will be greater than you dreamt. You might not have imagined this life for yourself or your child but it does not mean it will be a disappointment.