I was looking for the article by Dorothy Wertz I referenced yesterday, and found this quote from Dr. Adrienne Asch in the article, “Prenatal Diagnosis and Selective Abortion: A Challenge to Practice and Policy” from the November 1999 edition of American Journal of Public Health:
If professionals and parents believed that children with disabilities could indeed provide their parents many of the same satisfactions as any other child in terms of stimulation, love, companionship, pride, and pleasure in influencing the growth and development of another, they might reexamine their belief that in psychological, material, and social terms, the burdens of raising disabled children outweigh the benefits.
A vast array of literature, both parental narrative and social science quantitative and qualitative research, powerfully testifies to the rewards-typical and atypical-of raising children with many of the conditions for which prenatal testing is considered de rigeur and abortion is expected (Down syndrome, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, to name only some). Yet bioethics, public health, and genetics remain woefully-scandalously–oblivious, ignorant, or dismissive of any information that challenges the conviction that disability dooms families.
In other words, though we can frequently provide evidence to the benefits of raising our children with disabilities, the belief system of people who are supposed to be serving us leads them to dismiss that evidence. The only evidence they will consider are the burdens. Thus, the only right answer for them is to abort our babies with disabilities.
I am grateful when researchers like Dr. Asch point out that it isn’t just the ‘reality’ of burdens that leads to higher rates of abortion. We are also fighting an evil belief system that automatically assigns lower value to a baby with certain genetic characteristics. Sort of like we used to do with children born with dark skin in this country.
But given the statistics on abortion of African-American children, maybe I am too quick to say ‘used to.’