I found the chapter written by Dr. Dorothy Wertz, “How Parents of Affected Children View Selective Abortion,” from the book, Issues in Reproductive Technology: An Anthology, edited by Helen Holmes.
I now wished I hadn’t. I am horrified at what she found in her research.
Here is one of Dr. Wertz’s conclusions:
Since individuals rather than governments are making these decisions (selective abortion of children with disabilities), they are not considered eugenic. Yet, individuals can practice eugenics, perhaps more effectively than governments. Informal social pressure is a very effective measure of coercion. Once tests are offered, to reject them is a rejection of modern faith in science and also a rejection of our belief that we should do everything possible for the health of the future child. To bear, knowingly, a less than perfect child affronts the mores of many social circles. The sharp reduction in incidents of certain birth defects, such as Tay-Sachs in the United States and spina bifida in Britain, suggests that families are making what amount to eugenic decisions (all bold emphases mine).
There is good news in this. If individuals are behaving as though there is a sanctioned eugenics movement in the United States, then individuals can be encouraged to make different decisions.
This is where the church and those of us with children with disabilities can engage in loving ways to turn the tide away from eugenics, one couple and one child at a time.
Parents, let us live like our children with disabilities matter and that we trust God to supply all our needs. There is no reason to minimize our hardships – they are real, and people assume them anyway. But there is more – God’s promises are real and we have been given a special opportunity to make much of him and testify to his promises through how we live our lives.
People simply do not talk about abortion as an option around me or my son, and I talk all the time about how glad I am to have this boy. There’s two blows against aborting children with disabilities right there.
For churches, many had pro-life or sanctity of life Sunday services this past January. Take that extra step – find ways to serve and welcome that family with a disabled family member. Let all your people know you care about every person who crosses your doors, and that you WANT every one who crosses your doors, as an overflow of your affections for God who has done everything for you.
Will it be hard? No. It is impossible. At Bethlehem we struggle most of the time – some disabilities are really, really hard, we frequently don’t know if we are doing the right things in serving a child or family, we make mistakes that discourage people, we never seem to have enough volunteers, and just when things seem to stabilize, another issue comes up that’s even more complicated than the last.
That is why we anchor everything in prayerful dependence, because only through God’s help will anything happen.
Think – pastor, or elder, or small group leader, or Sunday school teacher, or volunteer, or friend – how will you feel someday if a dad or mom comes up to YOU and says, “because of what I saw in what you did, we chose to have our baby with (terribly difficult disabling condition).” And what sort of reward will there be from the Father for faithfully serving the most vulnerable of his human creation?
I don’t know. But I want to find out.