In her Yahoo! Parenting article “I Terminated My Baby with Down Syndrome,” Sophie Horan is not shy about painting her abortion as choice made with her baby’s interests in mind. She claims her unborn baby “deserved better than a life of struggle and frustration due to a condition that he or she would never be able to change.” Bad news, Sophie Horan, this is true for all of us, Down syndrome or no.
Horan details a painful (for her) post-diagnosis trip to an outdoor café where she and her husband observe a person with Down syndrome and his family. It is a portrait of life with Down syndrome straight out of the 1930s. “They were trying to prevent him from running out into the street so they could hand-feed him a slice of pizza and wipe his face with a napkin,” she writes. “Though he behaved like a rambunctious toddler, I wondered if he were a teenager or older (it’s often difficult to determine the age of someone with Down’s).”
Sadly, this is how many see disabilityone, long, painful babysitting job for beleaguered parents who will never know happiness, never know grace, never know peace and quiet, never know what it is to eat a nice meal of pizza at an outdoor café. Can you imagine such hardship?
I can, I suppose. I have a daughter with Down syndrome, and I know countless other families who love someone with the genetic condition known as Trisomy 21. We’re not saints for having taken on this burden; neither are we victims. Sure, it’s hard sometimes. On balance, though, our difficulties are no greater or more insurmountable than any family’s. After all, into each life some rain must fall.
Despite claiming to have done some research, Horan and her husband are terrifically misinformed about Down syndrome. Horan claims she aborted her baby because she didn’t “want him or her to ever feel lonely, lack independence, or be confined to a nursing home when we passed on.” In fact, numerous studies have confirmed what my family already knows: people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives. Siblings of those with Down syndrome report that their lives are enriched by their brother or sister’s condition. Parents are brought closer together by the experience of raising a child with Down syndrome.
Horan is right about one thing. My daughter is eight, going on nine, and she’s short for her age, so it is sometimes hard for people to tell how old she is.
Like every “My Abortion” story, Horan’s piece is a moral muddle. I sincerely wish she or her husband had called me, or someone else who knows what they’re talking about, before deciding to kill their baby. I wish that instead of merely eyeballing that family at the outdoor café, she had gone up and talked to them, asked if they had anything positive to say about raising their son. If she had done that, her baby might be alive today. If she had done that, she might have written a different article.
Its title could have been: “I Was Wrong About Down Syndrome.”
Matthew Hennessey (@matthennessey) writes from Connecticut.