Disability, Abortion and the Nature of a Tough Decision

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Patricia E. Bauer's column ["The Abortion Debate No One Wants to Have," op-ed, Oct. 18] was poignant and moving. It is wonderful to see her accept and love her daughter because of who she is, and not just in spite of it.

However, her conclusions about the presence of prenatal screening in the abortion debate are troubling. The abortion debate simply has to do with having the right to choose between abortion or carrying to term. The reasons for abortion are not to be questioned; this is why the Texas law at issue in Roe v. Wade was deemed unconstitutional, even though it did have provisions for pregnancies that endangered the mother's health. Though it is unfortunate that some people do not regard kids with Down syndrome to be worthy of being a part of our society, it is a problem that is best addressed through education and awareness about the condition.

Prenatal screening is used in some arguments against the right to abortion by those who say that abortion would effectively lead to a form of eugenics. However, most people don't have abortions as part of the process of creating "the perfect child." An assertion to the contrary insults the millions of women who, after much soul-searching and internal debate, choose to have an abortion because of their own health, because they were raped, or simply because they did not choose to have a child and would not be able to provide care in the best way, regardless of whether there was a prenatal diagnosis of a mental handicap.

Bauer is right in saying that the morality of prenatal screening needs to be debated. But abortion and prenatal screening are not the same moral issue. One is about whether it is a woman's choice to end her pregnancy, and one is about whether we have the right to "design" our children. These are simply not the same things.

-- Jonathan Fombonne

Washington

I applaud Patricia E. Bauer for opening the topic of our treatment and acceptance of people with disabilities.

I was disturbed, however, by her implication that women might choose to abort babies who test positive for disabilities because those women are seeking "a perfect baby, a perfect life."


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