Prenatal Executions: Ridding the World of People with Down Syndrome

Today’s New York Times reports a chilling statistic: “About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.” As a result of this situation, a group of parents of children with Down Syndrome are trying to convince pregnant women not to kill their unborn babies with Down Syndrome.

One of the ways these parents are intervening is by getting involved in prenatal counseling. The parents are offering to let expecting families meet with their Down Syndrome children. At one such meeting, Sarah Itoh (a child with Down Syndrome) told a roomful of genetic counselors and obstetricians, “I am so lucky I get to do so many things. I just want you to know, even though I have Down syndrome, it is O.K.”

There is a real problem with how this piece frames the issue and what’s at stake in our culture. The article suggests that it is a “cultural skirmish over where to draw the line between preventing disability and accepting human diversity.” But what thinking person could possibly describe the conflict in this way. This clash is not about “preventing disability.” That’s a euphemism that every rational person should reject. It’s about whether or not we should execute disabled persons before they can become a “burden” to their parents and society.

On this issue Christians must offer a prophetic word to the culture. All people are created in God’s image (including people with Down Syndrome) and are thereby to be treated with the dignity that God commands towards those who bear His image. To kill innocent humans because they are inconvenient or unwanted is an assault on the image of God.

A just community does not execute people who are financial and emotional burdens to their families or to society. On the contrary, a just community tries to find ways to care for them. Why would we treat people with Down Syndrome any differently?

“Prenatal Test Puts Down Syndrome in Hard Focus” – New York Times

5 Responses to Prenatal Executions: Ridding the World of People with Down Syndrome

  1. chris haw May 9, 2007 at 7:31 am #

    this is very interesting–and sad.

    on this point, denny, we certainly match up: life. it is holy, even when (maybe even “especially when”) it requires care-taking. on this issue, i’m seeking to find a consistent pro-life posture.

    i hope yoder went well for you. i’d love to hear.

    chris haw

  2. HeroicLife May 9, 2007 at 10:56 pm #

    Choosing to have a retarded child is a moral atrocity. There’s no way to get around the fact that Down syndrome causes suffering in everyone involved. The parents who support bringing more people burdened with this illness into the world only want to extend their and their children’s suffering to everyone else. They should be named for what they are – evil.

    Every child should be loved and valued – but a fetus is not a child until he or she is born – and what kind of perverted monster do you have to be to want your children to suffer their entire life? Only the religious dogma behind the hypocritical “culture of life” is capable of sinking people to this level.

  3. Jen Strange May 10, 2007 at 9:16 am #

    Amy Laura Hall wrote a tremendously compelling essay on this same shocking statistic four years ago: “Making Prenatal Choices” is a biting criticism on those who presume that a prenatal diagnosis like Down Syndrome will inevitably result in a shameful life full of suffering. On the contrary, many among us who might have seemed “less than perfect” if we’d had a window on their sheltering wombs go on to glorify God in countless ways–not least of which by demonstrating how God loves difference in His Church.

    Regardless, Hall’s point is that Christians have the special privilege of extending “hospitality” to all sorts of humans, from the womb to the grave. I recommend the essay to all who share a dropped jaw at the statistic reported above.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Death to Downs Babies « shawblog - May 9, 2007

    […] Denny Burk: This clash is not about “preventing disability.” That’s a euphemism that every rational person should reject. It’s about whether or not we should execute disabled persons before they can become a “burden” to their parents and society. On this issue Christians must offer a prophetic word to the culture. All people are created in God’s image (including people with Down Syndrome) and are thereby to be treated with the dignity that God commands towards those who bear His image. To kill innocent humans because they are inconvenient or unwanted is an assault on the image of God. […]

  2. This clash is not about ‘preventing disability.’ – Denny Burk « The Works of God - August 12, 2011

    […] In this blog post from several years ago, Denny Burk, succinctly unpacks a significant cultural problem as evidenced in a New York Times article on abortion and Down syndrome: There is a real problem with how this piece frames the issue and what’s at stake in our culture. The article suggests that it is a “cultural skirmish over where to draw the line between preventing disability and accepting human diversity.” But what thinking person could possibly describe the conflict in this way. This clash is not about “preventing disability.” That’s a euphemism that every rational person should reject. It’s about whether or not we should execute disabled persons before they can become a “burden” to their parents and society. […]

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