When I was growing up, seeing people with Down syndrome was common, and as a Special Olympics volunteer, I was touched by how much they loved life.
But today, 90 percent of women expecting a Down syndrome baby get an abortion, according to such journals as the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
As in-utero screening has advanced, terminating Down syndrome pregnancies has become almost expected.
But should it be? Or are we as families and a society losing something important if we become a nation of more and more perfect people, preventing those with even the most livable disabilities from being born?
As we get further away from recognizing that everyone is precious, no matter his or her handicaps, we become less compassionate and accommodating toward those who are imperfect.
And that makes it harder and harder for parents to visualize how they could navigate life with a Down syndrome child.
Forty years ago, that was easy to visualize. And those parents discovered that the loving, happy nature of most Down syndrome children was not a burden but a joy – to the family and society.
Today, we need to get back to encouraging and supporting more women in keeping those babies – with everything from tax breaks to easier access to special services.
Women should never be made to feel as they do today – that they have no other choice but to terminate the pregnancy, simply because they can’t fathom how to move forward.
When Diana Lawler, a mom I know, discovered one child would be a Down syndrome son, she and her husband also adopted a Down syndrome daughter. She believes we should better encourage Down syndrome parents, saying:
“These kids have added so much to our family. My husband says God makes angels out of that extra chromosome. My other children get frustrated with them, sure. But I feel like, in their lives, this will be a plus; my son and daughter will never perform like other people, but my other kids love them unconditionally.
“It makes me sad that we are removing this element from our society. Down syndrome is an easy disability, comparatively, and the kids are so loving. They will teach you so much more than a ‘normal’ child.”
Shaunti Feldhahn (firstname.lastname@example.org), a married mother of two, is a conservative Christian author and speaker.