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?