’Deselecting’ our children

By Dave Andrusko

Margaret Sommerville

Over the weekend I ran across a story headlined, “Why we made right decision to abort our unborn baby.” The brief account appeared in a newspaper in Derbyshire, a county in the East Midlands of England. It’s altogether pessimistic outlook instantly made me think of “’Deselecting’ our children,” an article by Prof. Margaret Somerville that appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail last month and whose perspective could not be more different.

The Derbyshire couple, Georgina Pearson and Zak Turgoose, felt the need to go public with their decision to abort their 22-week-old child who, they were told, would be “brain-damaged and severely disabled.” (When you read these descriptions, you always wonder whether “severely disabled” is automatically attached to “brain-damaged.”)

And they did so, we read, even though they “knew that their choice to terminate her pregnancy would provoke criticism by pro-life campaigners.”

They told the reporter for the Derby Telegraph that the decision had been “heartbreaking” but the “right one.”

“We will miss Jacob every day,” Ms. Pearson said. “If we have more children, he’ll never be a secret.”

A spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said simply,” Disabled children can still find joy in life. Life is precious.” He added, “When parents face difficult decisions, they need some sound advice. We encourage them to contact us.”

Somerville leads off her essay with this chilling observation:

“Here’s a recent Danish headline: Plans to make Denmark a Down syndrome-free perfect society.’ The Danes want to promote aborting fetuses with Down syndrome, so their society will be free of such people around 2030. One bioethicist describes it as a ‘fantastic achievement.’”

She immediately segues to the most recent step along our path to a Brave New World: abortion based not on an in utero injury but because the child is the “wrong” sex.

But the focus of her essay is reflections on this question:

“What kind of society might result from endorsing a belief that a society without disabled people is ‘perfect?”

[Unfortunately, that is quickly becoming a possibility rather than a rhetorical question. More and more accurate tests conducted earlier and earlier mean not only that the kill ratio may approach 100% but that the search for perfection may make a bewildering number (and variety) of unborn children potential victims.]

What kind of society? A society where we see

*A contravention of “the value that parental love is unconditional.”

*”A societal-level message: ‘We don’t want you in our society unless you measure up to a certain standard. You’re only a potential member, until you’ve passed the admission test we’ll pay for with our tax dollars.’”

* A dismissal of parents who fight for children with disabilities as the “whinings of a ‘special interest’ group,” as a mother of a 47-year-old son with Down syndrome said. And

* The realistic possibility that increasingly women who do not abort “when ‘abnormalities’ are discovered [will] be seen as socially irresponsible.”

Perhaps the most significant comment comes from that same mother: “I am frightened of the times that seem to be coming.”

You can read Sommerville’s essay at www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/deselecting-our-children/article2136096/.

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