World, Could You Please Make Up Your Mind?

By Remil Teny, Education Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

The champagne carpets were rolled out. 

The stage was set.

The winners were decided. 

The Oscar ceremony unfolded in a celebration of fashion, culture and talent on Sunday.

Amidst the glitz and glam, the audience witnessed a number of what I believe to be pro-life moments on and off stage.

(Did you notice how many mothers were thanked at the Oscars???)

One among the winners who walked up the stage to receive the honor of the coveted golden statue was James Martin. Surrounded by the directors and a co-actor of An Irish Goodbye, he was celebrated on stage with these heartwarming words by Tom Berkeley, “This award is actually the second most important thing about today because it’s this man’s birthday… We’d love to use the rest of our time up here to sing for him.” They proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to him as the audience joined in.

What is striking about this scene is that the world is full of praise for this man who made history as the first actor with Down syndrome to win an Oscar while also holding strongly to the conviction that the law must allow children with disabilities to be aborted.

Ironically for James Martin, the United Kingdom, from whence he hails, has a law that permits abortion up to birth when “there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped” which includes Down’s Syndrome.

Last year, Heidi Crowter, a 27 year old woman with Down’s syndrome, appealed this law and lost. When asked to comment, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Services, Clare Murphy is reported to have said, “There is no contradiction between a society which champions the rights of disabled people and one which allows women to make difficult decisions in heart-breaking situations.” She is reported to have further commented that the case was an attack on pregnant women’s rights – -“not just to abortion, but to making their own decisions during childbirth”.

But I ask, isn’t there a contradiction? How are we championing the rights of disabled people if we are also championing mothers who end these very lives?

The argument is always that the woman’s right to be able to live a fulfilling life would be significantly crippled by having a child that needs special attention, that a Down syndrome child will make life more difficult for her than a normal child, that the child will not have “the quality of life” he deserves. And hence, must be allowed by law to “terminate the baby”. 

There is little to no threat to the mother’s life or health in these circumstances, not any more than in the usual cases. To promote the idea that any child, able or disabled, needs to die for a woman to live as she wants is greatly misguided.

According to United States Congress Joint Economic Committee, up to 60-90 percent of babies predicted to be born with the condition is lost to abortion in the US. If given a chance who knows what beautiful things they might go on to do.

Of course not every person with Down syndrome will make it to the Oscars or make it big in the world. But if we were to put people in categories of abled and disabled, I’m sure the statement will remain true for both. On what basis do we decide which ones to terminate and which ones to keep?

Interestingly, going back to the Oscars, a lot of the winners in their acceptance speeches, spoke of struggles, of failures and almost giving up, of family and friends who supported them. Many of them also spoke of their mothers. Acknowledging the sacrifices they made for them, grown men and women talked about bringing their winning trophy home to their mothers.

Human beings have always been a species of resilient creatures. Struggling is how we’ve made it. When a new life comes into being, it is important to recognize that challenges will arise. And how we make it through them determines so much of the outcome. We are capable of creative problem solving, of rising above our circumstances and finding ways for both mother and child to live extremely fulfilling lives. But if the first choice offered is to take the easy way out, where does that leave them both?

By pushing abortion in any case is to limit the endless possibilities that can be. One family’s choice to explore their options led to medical history. Adiah Laelynn and Adrial Luka Nadaraja were born at just 22 weeks, according to Guinness World Record, the world’s most premature twins.

And now history is being made in the entertainment industry by someone who would have been a “choice”. When will the world that celebrates the successes of people it qualified for abortions, wake up to the paradox of its own making?

On a parting note, kudos to the team of An Irish Goodbye for recognizing that even winning the Oscar comes only second to the person of James Martin as they celebrated his birthday.