Monday, February 21, 2005

Celebrating diversity

After Abortion cued me into this great piece, The Personal is Political. The author, a prochoice woman, takes on Ayelet Waldman's piece justfying her decision to abort her baby because he wasn't "normal." Among the most pithy of the author's reflections:

She trots out all the usual justifications - her family isn't prepared to raise a child with a disability, it will take too much time and attention away from her other kids, she doesn't want her son and daughter to be "burdened" with caring for their brother after her death, etc. Of course I can't help but have a visceral, stomach-twisting reaction to this incredibly privleged, wealthy woman whining that she simply didn't have the wherewithal to take on this challenge. I wish she could log on to my online Down Syndrome support group and meet the dozens of working-class, struggling parents, who often live in far-flung rural outposts with little to no community resources - and who STILL manage to lovingly raise happy, healthy children with and without extra chromosomes.

There's also the issue of how people who bail on a fetus with a disability will cope if one of their "normal" children develops a problem. Life is unpredictable.

Once a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is confirmed, termination is expected and encouraged - it is those of us who choose to give birth to our imperfect, hopelessly compromised babies who are shunned, or at least treated with utter bewilderment. I can't count how many times people approached me after Bug was born to bluntly ask "Didn't you know? Beforehand?" The tacit implication being, of course, why didn't you get tested like everyone else does, so you could have had an abortion before it was too late?"

For all our talk of "celebrating diversity," we as a society aren't practicing what we preach. We consider it grounds for abortion as soon as we find out a baby is different.

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