Selfish Convenience: Why people abort children with Down syndrome


Abortion advocates often use birth defects as an excuse to justify late-term abortions. Down syndrome is one of the most common birth defects, and among women who receive a prenatal diagnosis, 9 out of 10 choose abortion – solely because their babies have an extra chromosome.

There are usually noble-sounding excuses for why the parents chose to end their baby’s life. Parents will talk about how it was the “kinder” option, because a person with Down syndrome can, according to them, never live on his or her own or have a meaningful life. It’s done to “cure” their child of the suffering that Down syndrome will inherently bring. The parents didn’t want to kill their baby, oh no. They did it because they love their baby that much! It was a totally, 100% unselfish decision.

Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case.

Recently, I wrote about an article in the New York Times, where the author lamented her friend’s missed opportunity to abort her child with Down syndrome 30 years ago. One commenter, perhaps inadvertently, showed why people really choose to have abortions due to Down syndrome: convenience.

We terminated after a positive DS diagnosis. I am so glad we did. Our quality of life would have been terrible. We actually have the chance to retire in 9 years at age 54. Had we birthed such a needy child, such dreams would have gone down the drain as would our summers in Spain, Mexico and Israel.

This couple allegedly had an abortion so that they could go on exotic vacations. Having a child with Down syndrome would have ruined all of that, so bam – sorry, baby, no life for you!

Would this be acceptable in any other situation? Grandma was too much of a drag when we wanted to travel the world, so we killed her. Little Susie got leukemia, which was just really inconvenient for our trip to Spain next year, so we smothered her with a pillow. Society would rightfully shun anyone who expressed such thoughts. Yet the logic is literally exactly the same, so why is one acceptable and the other is not?

While most people may not literally think, Darn, no more trips to Spain and Israel!, there is an overwhelming idea that Down syndrome will ruin your life. I have been told similar things by parents before – that if they found out their baby had Down syndrome, they would have an abortion because it would just mess up their life too much.

One woman told me she wanted to be able to go to the beach and to Disneyworld with her kids (and Lord knows you can’t take those pesky defective Down syndrome kids to the beach!). Others just can’t fathom the idea of parenting a child who doesn’t fit into their very narrow idea of “normal.” There is a mindset that disabled is simply too difficult, and therefore not deserving of life. Why?

It’s certainly not a lifetime of misery and suffering they’re sparing the child from. Adults with Down syndrome overwhelmingly report being happy with themselves and their lives. Family members also report being happier, and feeling that they’ve become a better person thanks to their relative with Down syndrome. Medical advancements have given people with Down syndrome life expectancies close to that of the typical population, and made the common health issues that come with Down syndrome extremely manageable. Most adults with Down syndrome go to school, hold jobs, and have relationships, and many get married and live on their own. The quality of life argument doesn’t hold water.

The abortion isn’t for the sake of the child; it’s for the sake of the parent. They don’t want an inconvenient child, a baby who may require them to work a little harder than they planned. And hey, that’s understandable. Not many people dream of raising a special-needs child. I certainly didn’t – I was devastated when I received our diagnosis. But I accepted and adjusted, and today, Down syndrome barely affects my day-to-day life. That’s because it doesn’t take an extraordinary parent to raise a child with Down syndrome. They’re just children, after all.

You feed them, play with them, love them. It really isn’t that difficult. It may not always be ideal, but parenthood doesn’t always give us exactly what we want. There aren’t prenatal screenings to tell parents that, hey, your child is going to develop autism after he’s born, or that at four years old, your son will be diagnosed with leukemia, or that at seven, he’ll be in a car accident leaving him wheelchair-bound for life. Yet very few people would condone killing their four-year-old with cancer, or their seven-year-old in a wheelchair – simply because it was too hard on the parents. Parents of children who end up going through hardships or special needs or health problems aren’t super-parents, and they do it not because they want to. They do it because they love their children, and because they have to.

And that’s what it really boils down to, isn’t it? People who abort their babies with Down syndrome do it not because they can’t raise a child with special needs; they do it because they don’t want to. They don’t want the inconvenience; they don’t want the stress. They have a picture of how their life is supposed to be, and anything that doesn’t fit into that picture needs to be erased.

There’s nothing noble or loving about choosing to abort your child because of Down syndrome. It all boils down to what these parents don’t often want to admit. They do it because it’s more convenient to have an abortion, because they’re selfish. They do it because their lifestyle is more important to them than an actual life.

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