The first person killed under the Nazi regime was a 5-month-old boy with disabilities. According to The Telegraph, it was only a month after Gerhard Kretschmar’s murder that Hitler’s Interior Ministry ordered the systematic murders of mentally and physically disabled children in order to create the perfect race. Just as Hitler deemed the lives of children with disabilities “life unworthy of life,” so do many of us today, in America.
In her January 7 post, “Virginia Legislators Want to Force Poor Women to Carry Severely Disabled Fetuses to Term Against Their Will,” Robin Marty, senior political reporter, writes:
… a new bill being introduced by a Virginia state legislator, [poor women] will have to decide whether to desperately find money to access an abortion, or whether to risk their own health by carrying to term and giving birth to a fetus that a doctor has already stated will have little to no meaningful life.
She sounds like Margaret Sanger, deciding whose lives are worthy of living and whose should be squashed, destroyed, and forgotten. So what does it mean to have a meaningful life?
Meaningful is simply defined as full of meaning, significance, purpose, or value. There are millions of people labeled as disabled, and they are living full, happy lives. Human beings are defined not by what our bodies can or cannot do, but by who we are are as individuals, what we mean to our families and friends, and how we love other people and make their lives better.
Dawn Parkot was born with athetoid cerebral palsy, leaving her physical movements and speech severely impaired. In 1979, she developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. At the age of 16, her wheelchair hydroplaned off a cliff. This left her with spinal cord trauma and more brain injury. She is also legally blind. To some people, this may seem like a life not worth living. But Parkot, despite doctors saying her life would amount to nothing, has accomplished more in her lifetime than many of us. She graduated high school with honors and has a master’s degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. She was as a member of the 1991 Paralympics games and held the title of Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey. She speaks on behalf of the rights of our disabled citizens, and in one talk she gave, as reported by Michael Wojcik for the Beacon, she said:
This country is trying to take away our civil liberties. When we are allowed to be starved to death, I’m not proud of being an American. (Severely disabled people) could be the next Helen Keller, Ray Charles, Stephen Hawking or Pope John Paul II.
In addition, she believes that when we systematically kill people for being disabled, we are missing out on the good they could have brought to the world, be it with just the flash of a smile, within their own families, or in the wider community.
A recent story illustrates that point beautifully. A young mother, Katyia Rowe, was recently told that her unborn son would never walk or talk and, if he even lived, would require 24-hour care. Doctors told her and her partner to end the pregnancy at 24 weeks. However, a 3D ultrasound showed a smiling little baby boy who waved his arms and wiggled around. The couple decided that no matter what, they would love their son and show him that love for as long as he was with them, both in the womb and out. Despite having to undergo painful amniotic draining procedures throughout the final two months of her pregnancy, Rowe says it was all worth it when she held her son, who lived for nine hours. She told the Daily Mail:
It was agony and I knew some people questioned if it was worth putting myself through all this for a severely disabled baby that may not live for long. But I never ever thought like that. As a mother you will do anything for your child and for me I became a mother as soon as I fell pregnant, that job had started already. It was without doubt the happiest moment of my life. Lucian could have died at anytime in my womb but he held on long enough for us to meet properly. My son looked utterly perfect. The love and joy I felt the moment they put Lucian in my arms told me it had all been worth it.
This baby, who lived outside the womb for only nine hours, had a meaningful life. He changed his parents for the better and taught them more about unconditional love than anyone else could have. He was a blessing for all nine months of his life, and he died in his mother’s arms on his own time, feeling her love.
Besides Marty believing that some people’s lives are meaningless, she also thinks that financial concerns should outweigh a person’s right to life. Marty seems so concerned about these “poor women” she writes about, and she should be. Any women, poor or wealthy, will face many challenges when giving birth to and raising a child with disabilities. There will be discrimination, doubts, fears, immeasurable pain, and financial strains. It isn’t easy.
But raising children isn’t easy. Loving through hard times isn’t easy. And has Marty forgotten that although Medicaid wouldn’t be paying for the abortion, it doesn’t mean these women wouldn’t be able to have that abortion? After all, it would be cheaper than raising the child. Medicaid wouldn’t be forcing women to do anything. They just aren’t willing to pay for an abortion.
However, Marty also seems to forget that these children will also likely qualify for Medicaid. And since Medicaid doesn’t want to pay for an abortion but will help with medical expenses for children, in reality, isn’t the government actually helping these women? It’s telling them that no, we won’t pay for you to kill your child, but we will help you care for her. Is Marty willing to do that? Or would she rather hand the mother a check for an abortion and send her on her way to depression, guilt, and regret?
In the United States, doctors advise abortion for everything from Down syndrome to spina bifida to cystic fibrosis. Yet people with each of these conditions live beautiful, meaningful, productive lives. When are people like Marty going to see and accept that? Just because a person isn’t the senior political reporter for a popular web site, that doesn’t mean that his or her life has no value. Just because a person has to endure medical treatments, that doesn’t mean that her life loses meaning. Just because a person lives for nine hours, that doesn’t mean that his life had no value. Part of the beauty of life is overcoming the struggles that each of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, deals with on a daily basis.