By Nancy Valko
Editor’s note. This appeared on Nancy’s blog and is reposted with permission.
In a beautiful op-ed in the December 23, 2019 Wall Street Journal titled “Down Syndrome and the Gift of Innocence,” William McGurn writes about a small group of contemplative nuns called the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb who reside in France.
The order was founded in 1985 by Mother Line, now prioress, and Sister Véronique, who felt a vocation but could not find an order to accept her because she has Down syndrome. Now there are 10 sisters (eight with Down syndrome) who exist so that “those who are in last place in the world”—women with Down syndrome—can “hold in the church the exceptional role of spouses of Christ.
In practice this means that able-bodied sisters devote their lives to ensuring their fellow sisters with Down syndrome can live their vocations.”:
“The smiling faces of our little sisters with Down syndrome are a great message of hope for many injured families,” Mother Line tells me. “Our smallness will also say that we are made for very great things: to love and to be loved.”
And while the rest of the world dismisses innocence as naïve or childish, Mr. McGurn writes that:
“the nuns choose to cherish and exalt innocence—and the unconditional love and trust that comes with it—as an example of how we are meant to live with one another.”
Down Syndrome and Abortion
In contrast to these wonderful nuns, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs recently reversed his own ruling on a hard-fought pro-life abortion law passed in my home state of Missouri by blocking a provision that prohibits discriminatory abortions on unborn babies with Down syndrome.
It is hoped that this decision will be appealed. As Justice Clarence Thomas has previously written about such laws that protect unborn babies from eugenic discrimination:
“… this law and other laws like it promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”
“Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope.”
An “acceptable prejudice”?
A few days ago, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Disability Rights Project Susan Mizner defended abortion for unborn babies with Down syndrome writing that:
“There is no question that stigma, prejudice, and misconceptions about people with disabilities are widespread. But forcing someone to carry a pregnancy to term against their will does nothing to tackle underlying and systemic ableism and discrimination against people with disabilities.
“On the contrary, forced pregnancy threatens a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as the stability and wellbeing of their family, including existing children.”
As an RN and mother who had to fight medical discrimination against my daughter Karen who had both Down Syndrome and a heart defect as well as a past board member of the St. Louis Down Syndrome Association, I take great exception to this dangerously inaccurate statement. We can never eliminate prejudice by eliminating people with disabilities before or after birth.
I applaud the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb in France who cherish their sisters with Down Syndrome who have so much to give to the world and I am horrified by the several states that have now passed laws that allow abortion for any reason at any time during pregnancy or even after birth.
Although unborn babies with Down Syndrome are especially at risk, we must remember that ALL children enter the world with the “gift of innocence” and none deserve to be killed before birth.