Human Rights

Two babies with handicaps, two different fates

boy girl

Destroying children and destroying families.

On March 26, Live Action published an article on how women who are told that their children will be disabled are often pressured to abort.

Marie Ideson found out firsthand how great this pressure can be when she found herself 16 weeks pregnant with a baby who had Down syndrome. Ideson, who was 46, had been told that amniocentesis was a routine part of prenatal care. Although she had not expressed the desire to abort a handicapped baby, she underwent the procedure, and doctors told her that the baby would have Down syndrome.

According to Ideson, she originally wanted to keep her baby. She recounts hearing the news that her baby would be handicapped:

A woman said, “I’m sorry to say your baby has Down.” It was devastating. My first thought was, how will we cope?

I told Allan [her husband] I wanted to keep the baby and he agreed.

But Ideson was about to experience intense pressure to abort. She had hoped that the doctor she was seeing would support the decision to keep the baby. Instead:

… doctors said she could be born needing emergency heart surgery and have bowel and muscle tone problems – and that was if she survived. At no time did anyone suggest we might keep our baby. A termination was presented as the only way forward.

A nurse said not aborting my baby would cause it to suffer, and she’d only become a burden on society if I went ahead. She even said, “99 per cent of women in your situation wouldn’t want the baby.” Having it would be a burden on our other children, too, she said, especially if it was likely to need many operations throughout its life.

Our children were at the hospital with us. I looked at them and thought the medical staff must be right.

Ideson was not told that 99% of adults with Down syndrome report being happy with their lives. Seventy-nine percent of parents who have their babies with Down syndrome consider “their outlook in life to be more positive” because of their children, and 97% of siblings of children with Down syndrome who are 12 and older express feelings of pride for their brother or sister, while 88% of these siblings believe that they are better people because of their relationship with their brothers or sisters.

Instead, Ideson was faced with negativity. She gave in to pressure to abort. She swallowed the tablet that would kill her child:

I felt numb as I swallowed the tablet. I remember saying to Allan, “I just want to keep my baby.” But he just kept saying, “But they must think the baby’s really bad, Marie – it’s for the best.”

It wasn’t until Ideson delivered her stillborn baby girl that she was faced with the horror of what she had done:

She was so small, but otherwise perfect. I started sobbing uncontrollably. What had I done? I realized I’d been bullied into taking that first pill. I felt overwhelmed by anger. I should’ve been sent home to think about all the options. It should’ve been pointed out that having my baby was an option and that, with medical advances, most Down babies go on to live happy lives.

Ideson named her child Lillie and mourned deeply for her. She said:

I was bullied into going ahead with an abortion…I only wish I could turn back the clock. I think of the daughter I never had every day. I’ll always regret it.

Ideson came to resent her husband for encouraging her to abort, and the abortion eventually tore apart their marriage.

I knew he was devastated, too, but I was angry he’d allowed staff to rush me into getting rid of her. The feeling he didn’t support me when I needed him most festered between us.

The final straw came when I was in labor with Reuben [her next baby]. We were at home and the midwives wanted me to go to the hospital, but I told them I couldn’t go back to where I’d terminated Lillie. Allan tried to persuade me to go and, in the end, I had no choice. I felt, again, Allan hadn’t spoken up for me when I was at my most vulnerable. I couldn’t find it in my heart to forgive him.

The marriage did not survive. Ideson went on to say:

My eldest sons are 25 now. When I was pregnant with them, I knew of women who had babies with Down syndrome. Today, I never see mums with Down babies. I can’t believe that everyone who finds out their baby has Down syndrome willingly chooses to abort it. I can’t help feeling that other women must be having abortions they don’t want.

When radio show host Dr. Laura took a call from a woman who had aborted her child after finding out that the child would be handicapped, a number of parents of disabled children wrote letters in protest. One letter that was read on the air said the following:

Dear Dr. Laura,

… I had to respond to a call I heard today that was from a woman who justified killing her 20 week old fetus because they found out that the baby had down syndrome. She felt it was more humane to kill her child than to allow the child to experience life with Down Syndrome.

I am sad she feels that way. I have a 10 year old daughter who has a severe seizure disorder that causes her to have between 8-10 terrible seizures every month. She also has gross and fine motor delays, mild mental retardation, speech delays and low muscle tone throughout her body.

I admit it is a lot of work to take care of and raise my daughter, but when I look at her do I see a sad, depressed child who wished she were never born? No way! I see a beautiful, brave, happy, strong, wonderful child who brings happiness to every life she touches. I see a courageous child who wants to learn as much as she can and sees the world in such a wonderful and peaceful light. She is not concerned with the problems of the world, the worries of the day, the way her hair looks or the way she’s dressed. She isn’t counting her friends or what she has or doesn’t have. She is busy making the people around her laugh. Looking forward to seeing her grandpa and spending their special time together on Friday. Feeling proud that she is learning to stand on 1 foot and the progress she is making! So much innocence in the way she sees the world. I wish I could be more like her.

I gave her the right to life, but she has given so much more to me! She has taught me how to be strong, how to laugh, how to stand up for her rights! How to teach other children acceptance! How to celebrate the smallest of successes! How to reach out to others who learn and grow differently than myself. She has given me more than I can write in just one letter.

How sad for that lady that she will never have what I have. The chance to hug and love one of God’s most precious children! The chance to mold and guide one of God’s special angels. I am fortunate to have ALL my children in my life. But I feel especially blessed and honored that God entrusted ME with one of his most delicate and precious creations! In return, I promise to do my best to give her the best and happiest life that I possibly can, as long as I am lucky to have her in my life! Keep up the great work!

Susan C.

Every life has value. Every child can be a blessing despite his or her handicap. Parents who have handicapped children seldom wish that they aborted. The late C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General, was a leading pediatric surgeon specializing in correcting birth defects. He opposed abortion for handicapped children and was quoted saying:

Yet, I have a sense of satisfaction in my career, best indicated perhaps by the fact that no family has ever come to me and said: “Why did you work so hard to save the life of my child?” And no grown child has ever come back ask me why, either. (1)

According to pro-life activist John Wilke, there has never been an organization for the parents of handicapped children that endorsed abortion. (2)

No one will ever argue that life with a handicapped child is easy. But parents who give in to the pressure to abort miss out on the joy of seeing their children live and grow. The baby is robbed of her chance at life, and the parents are robbed of the gift of knowing and loving their child.

  1. Ronald Reagan “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1984) P. 55 Quoted in John Ankerberg and John Weldon “When Does Life Begin? And 39 Other Tough Questions About Abortion” (Brentwood TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt Publishers, 1989)
  2. John Wilke, Abortion Questions and Answers (Cincinnati, Ohio: Hayes publishing Company, 1988) 211
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