My brother Jakob was born when I was eight years old. He lived for less than two hours.
My mother had undergone prenatal testing before he was born, and these tests suggested that Jakob was going to be born with multiple abnormalities. Her doctors strongly advised an abortion, but my parents flatly refused. Abortion, they knew, was murder – no matter the reason. And there was no question in their minds that God was sending them this particular child for a purpose – that he was fearfully and wonderfully made, and that he had a special mission to fulfill. So we welcomed Jakob into our family, wept when he died, and continue to celebrate his birthday every year.
For over 36 years, Jakob has blessed our family. He is our link to Eternity and to the realm of angels. But over the same 36 years, doctors have continued to promote the use of prenatal testing and "therapy" – that is, abortion – to decrease the number of babies born with birth defects.
Insurance companies now scrutinize tests to identify which are most cost-effective, and public health experts push for expanded access to them. Granted, prenatal testing has its place. It can give parents time to prepare emotionally for the birth of a disabled child, as well to plan for delivery in a center equipped for a high-risk birth. That being said, the most profound effect of prenatal testing has been a staggering increase in the number of genetic abortions – abortions performed because testing has identified a baby as abnormal, deformed, and therefore unwanted.
Studies show that the majority of these abortions are done within 72 hours of testing – hardly enough time for a woman to process the news, let alone receive any sort of counseling. More disturbingly, the same studies show that health care professionals hold more favorable attitudes to genetic abortions than do non-health care professionals, and that up to one-third of women who test "positive" for a birth defect say that they felt pressured by medical personnel into having an abortion.
The birth defect most chillingly affected by prenatal testing has been Down syndrome. Close to 90% of women who find that their unborn baby has Down now choose to have an abortion. At the same time, adoption agencies report lists of over 100 couples at a time, waiting to receive a child with Down syndrome into their homes.
Why the discrepancy? Children with Down syndrome are not "terminal", and their lives are not the disasters contemporary medicine portrays them to be. Down syndrome kids can live at home, attend school, and even enter the work force. They can lead lives no less happy than any other people. I know many of them, and each encounter with them has enriched my life.
Why, then, are they being targeted by the medical establishment for elimination? Some geneticists cite eugenics, glibly stating that Down syndrome "pollutes the gene pool". Another equally grotesque reason given for the "prevention" of Down syndrome is financial. These proponents of abortion weigh the cost of testing and termination against the cost to society of supporting a person with Down syndrome, over an expected lifespan of 40 to 50 years.
The horror does not stop with abortion. A recent article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics states that "post-birth abortion" – an amazing euphemism for infanticide – is acceptable and justified because a newborn infant is not a real person with a moral right to life. The authors use Down syndrome babies as an example of infants who could be euthanized because "such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care." Such ideas are, in fact, reality: in the Netherlands, Down syndrome babies are already routinely left to starve to death.
We dare not point a finger at mothers who consent to genetic abortion without taking a serious look at how our society regards people with disabilities. We have become obsessed with physical perfection and intellectual prowess, and our outlook on life is driven not by compassion but by selfishness and greed. The roots of this evil are in each of our hearts. Where is our reverence for God, the Author and Creator of all life, who never makes a mistake?
Already 2000 years ago, Jesus warned us about such arrogance:
Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven (Matthew 18).
We are now living in a society that not only looks down on "these little ones", but is actively engaged in a mission to destroy them. If we do not protest this evil, we are just as guilty as those who carry it out. Lent is not over yet, and Easter is approaching. There is still time to repent for our sin. May God have mercy on us all.
The writer is a physician assistant who practices in upstate New York.