In her contribution to The New York Times Motherlode blog, Pregnant at 49, Erin Kelly lays out the challenges she sees in being pregnant, unexpectedly, at the age of 49. Rightly, the issue of the baby’s genetic makeup is central to her concerns. Women at that age (and men, as it turns out), are of greater risk in having children who will be born with genetic anomalies.
Every statement she makes about disability is negative, except one:
Yes, we know disabled people can lead productive happy lives.
Which was immediately followed with this:
But he and I agreed we’d terminate a fetus with genetic defects. Why? Not because we’re crazed perfectionists, or evil. We’re just too old.
Actually, the statements that follow this suggest they are perfectionists:
We’re already almost too old to properly raise a special-needs child. We’ll certainly be too old later. If we live until about 80, that’s 30 more years. This special-needs child would be a special-needs adult with a long life ahead when we died. After my grandmother died, I watched my aunt with Down syndrome move between her sisters for more years than she’d had a mother. Our daughters would automatically be made into their sibling’s keepers. I always wanted three children, but we’d be giving them a lifetime of responsibility for a decision we made to indulge ourselves in having another baby to fill our emptying nest.
There is no statement about how her aunts felt about taking care of their disabled sibling. There is no statement about what kind of life her aunt with Down syndrome lived; many adults with Down syndrome would say they lead a very good life. There is no statement about families taking care of each other. Yet, I’m sure if one of her teenaged children suddenly experienced a traumatic brain injury this mother would be the first in line to take care of that child for as many years as she was given – even into that child’s adulthood.
But there is a lot said about the value of independence and productivity over dependence. Notice even in the ‘positive’ statement: we know disabled people can lead productive happy lives.
And, curiously, there is no mention of adoption. If they are too old to parent, maybe somebody would take on the challenge. I know quite a few of those ‘somebodies’ who have adopted children with special needs – sometimes many children!
Sadly, this baby died through miscarriage, so we will never know what kind of person he or she would have been. Maybe that’s a kindness from God; Erin Kelly was not put in the position of explaining to her children why she aborted their sibling because he or she was too defective to live.
And she concludes with a statement about who gets to decide things, like what makes up a good family or not:
My experience is just one more reason I believe women must have an absolute right to choose whether to remain pregnant with no exceptions. Some pregnancies aren’t only about the survival of the mother or the fetus, they’re about how the whole family thrives.
Whole families – except, of course, for the one you didn’t want.
Paul taught us there is something worth sacrificing for, including caring for and loving children who will suffer and who will bring suffering to an entire family, because it leads to something of greater worth than anything – Jesus Christ!
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11 ESV)
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