Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Does the child have a choice?

Maria Eftimiades, a reporter for People Magazine, wrote in Tuesday's Washington Post about her very personal story of ending her pregnancy after a Down Syndrome diagnosis.

I have never needed to face such difficult circumstances, as God blessed us with two healthy girls. Because of that and what I write here, I'm sure I'll be blasted for my insensitivity, my holier-than-thou attitude, my inability to empathize with a difficult decision that has no easy answers.

I plead guilty to a lack of empathy, and I've certainly had my share of insensitivity. If I come across as arrogant, I apologize. I'm not sorry for having convictions about the value of human life. However difficult Ms. Eftimiades' decision may have been, there were a few things that bothered me. She wrote:
While I have no doubt there can be joys and victories in raising a mentally handicapped child, for me and for Mike, it's a painful journey that we believe is better not taken. To know now that our son would be retarded, perhaps profoundly, gives us the choice of not continuing the pregnancy. We don't want a life like that for our child, and the added worry that we wouldn't be around long enough to care for him throughout his life.

. . . I'm quite certain that I made the right choice for the three of us.
"A painful journey that we believe is better not taken." Better for whom? For the baby? The writer tries to suggest that it's best for the child as well, though she admits that "we don't want a life like that for our child." So it's really "the right choice" for the adults, and the child (which they named John) must bear the brunt of the decision.

I'm also bothered by the fact that this couple was trying to conceive. They were both over 40; they knew the risks. Instead, they were unwilling to accept the cards dealt to them. Like playing blackjack without any face cards, they knew the odds were not very high, but they hoped they could pick up a pair of nines and beat the dealer. When they got a pair of deuces, they folded without seeing what came next off the deck.

She continues:
I'm sure pro-lifers don't give you the right to grieve for the baby you chose not to bring into the world (another euphemism, although avoiding the word "abortion'' doesn't take any sting out of the decision to have one). Only now do I understand how entirely personal the decision to terminate a pregnancy is and how wrong it feels to bring someone else's morality into the discussion.
My responses:
1) Her blanket condemnation of "pro-lifers (who) don't give you the right to grieve" is as misguided and incorrect as me saying that all pro-abortion advocates are radicals who would have no qualms about aborting their baby by cutting off its head two hours before delivery.

In Portland, the local Pregnancy Resource Centers established the HEART program to minister to women struggling with abortions. HEART (an acronym for Healing Encouragement for Abortion-Related Trauma) is "designed to educate and support post-abortive men and women to aid in them in healing from the grief of abortion," according to its website. Another site, Hope After Abortion, states on its home page that "It's normal to grieve a pregnancy loss, including the loss of a child by abortion. It can form a hole in one's heart, a hole so deep that sometimes it seems nothing can fill the emptiness."

Both programs are operated by faith-based organizations, and it would be completely deceptive to claim either forbids the "right" to grieve an aborted child.

2) She writes: "Only now do I understand how entirely personal the decision to terminate a pregnancy is and how wrong it feels to bring someone else's morality into the discussion."

This is a classic ploy to end debate by accusing pro-lifers of shoving their morality down others' throats. The answer is really quite simple, and is summed up by the folks at Stand to Reason:
Abortion involves killing and discarding something that's alive. Whether it's right or not to take the life of any living being depends entirely upon the answer to one question: What kind of being is it? The answer one gives is pivotal, the deciding element that trumps all other considerations.

Let me put the issue plainly. If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate.
3) Ms. Eftimiades attempts (perhaps inadvertently) to make all abortion discussion off-limits with her difficult story, as if suggesting that any abortion must be available because of cases like birth defect or rape. In truth, 95 percent of all abortions are performed as a means of birth control or to end an unplanned pregnancy. Only 1 percent of abortions are performed because of rape or incest, and 3 percent are because of fetal abnormalities.

In addition, those who choose not to end a birth-defected pregnancy have other options. Go to the National Down Syndrome Society website, type "adopt" into the search box, and you'll see stories about parents willing to adopt babies with the defect.

Those parents willing to accept the cards they receive find unexpected joys. A reader of The Corner at National Review Online, a parent of a Down Syndrome child, made this point elegantly:
I am sure that many read Maria Eftimiades article and sympathized with her situation and decision. I do too, but for a different reason than most.

This article is the story of two victims. First, John, a human being that has not been allowed to reach his potential. Second, Maria, a human being that has been victimized by a culture that values choice above life, especially a life that is not considered perfect.

It is clear by the guilt in Maria's own words that she is a victim. Let me give you a few examples:
  1. Considering miscarriage as a way to hide her decision.
  2. Referring to people as "funny" who might question her decision.
  3. Her "knowing" that John is "retarded, perhaps profoundly" and referring to Down Syndrome as a severe disability" when she could not possibly know John's future potential.
  4. Determining that raising a child with a disability is a "painful journey."
  5. Her missing of John.
  6. Her "luck" that no one at the hospital knew what she was doing.
  7. Her choice to write a letter to a sympathetic editorial page.
One of the storylines last week on Nip/Tuck involved a young man that wanted to change his appearance so that he looked more like his family. The actor played his part with skill, vigor and professionalism. This young man happened to have Down Syndrome.

As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome I am often complimented for doing my job as a parent. This is because our culture assumes, like Maria, that it is a painful journey. This conclusion, like so many other things accepted by our culture is dead wrong.

I believe that raising a child with a disability is very similar to raising any child, only the highs are higher and the lows are lower. There are few greater joys in life than watching your disabled child accomplish things no one expected. There are few greater sadnesses than dealing with health issues that are often associated with a disabled child. But aren't the highs and lows, the intense emotional experiences what makes life worth living? Unfortunately for Maria she will never know how John would have enriched her life.

As I watched the news last night I learned that the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear may come off the endangered species list and listened to the outrage from people afraid that we may lose this species. In todays America, we are aborting most fetuses with Down Syndrome. We are effectively eliminating human beings with Down Syndrome from our population. Where is the outrage?


  • At 11/20/2005 11:44 PM, Blogger Troutdale Councilor Canfield said…

    I'm outraged, no doubt about it.

  • At 11/21/2005 11:18 AM, Blogger Tara Marie said…

    I join in the outrage....it is eugenics and our media is just glossing over the subject as 'right to choose'.

  • At 11/23/2005 5:52 PM, Blogger RNP said…


    Your article is right on point and I agree.

    My daughter is 16 months old and has Down Syndrome.

    I am an avid reader of tara marie, so I am not surprised she has commented here as well.

    Please check out my blog sometime soon. I am at: http://alwayschaosaroundhere.blogspot.com/

    Thanks Ken for your wonderful article on eugenics!

  • At 11/26/2005 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, why don't you adopt a downs syndrome baby for christs sake? maybe your outrage is better focused on those Iraqi civilians who are being killed because americans decided it needed to be liberated! or even better, maybe you could do what jesus said and

    "judge not lest ye be judged".

    it is not your place to say abortion is wrong. it is most certainly not a decision that you have any say over. the debate over whether a fetus is a life is not won or lost by either side of the pro-choice/pro-life aisle. maybe you should save your righteous indignation towards your own problems, your own family. instead of publicly "making a stand" and putting the scarlet letter on someone who obviously took great pains to ease the suffering of themselves, and their potential child.

    sam canfield

  • At 11/26/2005 12:17 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    Dear Sam,

    I love how you condemn me for judging someone for their decision to abort, yet judging and comdemning are exactly what you're doing to me. Why are you judging me? It's not your place to tell me I'm wrong. It's not, to use your words, a perspective you have any say over. The liberal double standard -- everyone must be open-minded, but I won't be open minded toward a conservative perspective -- lives on.

    Second, how do you know I don't mourn the Iraqi civilians? Your attempt to equate two unrelated things is a failed attempt to smear my perspective by insinuating that I don't care about a "liberal" issue because I choose to write about a "conservative" one.

    (Just for the record, my heart breaks for the Iraqi -- as well as Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian, Iranian, Chinese, etc. -- innocents. My outrage is directed at suicide bombers who blow up innocent families in mosques and street corners, not the American soldiers who are trying to protect those innocents and give them an escape from decades of tyranny under Saddam. But that's another story.)

    Third, go back and read my piece, especially the quote from Stand to Reason:
    "If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate."

    If it is a human being we're talking about, then "easing the suffering of themselves" is not a justification for abortion, nor is the "potential" suffering of the child. I'm not saying anyone would choose to give birth to a Down Syndrome baby, but no one is clairvoyant and can say what sort of life the parents or child would have.

    Go back and answer the question about whether the unborn is a human person. If not, then none of this rhetoric is necessary or helpful. If so, then it's critical.

    By the way, there is an answer, which is provable by science, not faith -- let me know if you figure it out.

  • At 11/27/2005 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't condemn you. I condemn your condemnation. I don't think it's your place as a stranger to pass judgement. I would like to see evidence that the child could live outside the womb without the mothers life support system. if it could, well i apologize. i'm no apologist for those who support late-term abortions. i don't believe life begins at conception though. i don't care if a peanut has a heartbeat.

    It's not as cut and dry as you're trying to make it sound. Of course the mother will wonder what the child could become, and grieve the potential loss. but the flip side of that coin is the benefit of not bringing a being into this world that can't support itself.


  • At 11/28/2005 8:35 AM, Blogger Brian B said…

    Before I engage in this debate, I have one question for Sam: When do you believe life DOES begin, if not at conception? And upon what do you base this belief?

  • At 11/28/2005 4:57 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    Hi Sam,

    I decided to write more at length, so please see the two posts for Nov. 28, one at 4:39 p.m. and one at 4:55 p.m.


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