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



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."

Women choose not to carry babies to term for many reasons. One significant factor in this excruciating decision might be concerns about whether the baby will be brought into a family with the skills, support or income to raise a child well. I note that Bauer's daughter attended the Riverview School, where the 2004-05 tuition was more than $50,000.

Raising a child with Down syndrome presents challenges to the most financially and emotionally secure families. In a country where decent education and health care are far from free, the decision not to have a baby with significant special needs might be painfully necessary.

-- Mary Beth H. Gray Steiker



My husband, Michael, and I have a beautiful 15-year-old son who happens to be autistic and developmentally delayed. We consider him to be a very special gift from God. He is a happy, healthy child and attends Ivymount School in Rockville. Sure, we have our hard days just like everyone else, but we love him and cannot imagine our lives without him.

Anyone who has ever taken the time and made the effort to know a disabled child can tell you how the child enriches the lives of others. We love our disabled children just as much as other parents love their "regular" kids, sometimes even more.

Had I been given the chance to abort this baby, I would never have considered it. The joy he brings to our lives will never end. Our hats are off to Patricia E. Bauer and her family.

-- Ellen Fontenot



The juxtaposition of two photographs in the same newspaper had never affected me as profoundly as it did Oct. 18.

On Page A13, supporters of Emily's List were all smiles and laughter as they celebrated the founding 20 years ago of an organization dedicated to electing more women who support abortion rights to state and federal offices.

On Page A25, the photo of Patricia E. Bauer's family showed a very different celebration with smiles. It was taken at the high school graduation of her daughter, Margaret Muller, a young woman with Down syndrome. Bauer wrote that Margaret "represents a group whose ranks are shrinking because of the wide availability of prenatal testing and abortion." Is this the kind of success Emily's List sought?

The abortion debate is very personal for my family as well. Both my husband and I, by coincidence, have a parent who was adopted. Our children are the direct descendants of two courageous young women who chose life over death for their infants.

Smiles for abortion rights? I will save my smiles and laughter for the celebration of life.

-- Catherine Stebbins



I think it is important for a father to add his voice to the torrent of responses elicited by the painfully sanctimonious views of Patricia E. Bauer.

Does Bauer believe that a single mother of three supporting her children on a clerk's wages should not have access to genetic testing? And, if this hypothetical woman's health insurance does cover this test and it indicates that her fetus has Down syndrome, is she wrong to consider her capacity to provide the appropriate level of care and attention, and, yes, deal with the undeniable social pressures that Bauer described? Or perhaps her screed is a veiled argument against a woman's right to choose in general in which she uses the emotional issue of the rights and value of disabled people to highlight the supposedly barbaric nature of such a choice.

Her unhelpful piece lumps two often painful human dilemmas into an incoherent mess.

-- Ross Kory

Falls Church