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Abortion and People With Disabilities

Last week’s leak of a draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade has people talking (yelling?) about abortion all over again. I wrote last week about some of the questions I am asking myself about abortion in general, but I also wanted to comment here, as the mother of a child with Down syndrome, on how some people on both sides of the abortion debate use people with disabilities in troubling and dehumanizing ways. (With the caveat, of course, that not everyone does what I’m about to describe.)


The temptation for people who are pro-choice is to characterize children with disabilities as burdens—to their families, communities, and society. People with disabilities deserve protection and honor. When abortion is characterized as necessary to prevent the birth of children with disabilities, we wade into the waters of eugenics and institutionalization and all the other ways we have pushed vulnerable people into the shadows rather than recognizing their intrinsic worth and their inherent dignity and many gifts. 


The temptation for people who are pro-life is to characterize children with disabilities as angels. The truth is that children with disabilities are as broken and beautiful as any other children, and that many of them have complex needs that require significant support. Women facing an unexpected pregnancy and/or an unexpected diagnosis can only move forward with that pregnancy within a web of social, financial, spiritual and emotional support. Our individualistic culture that does not value or support women, children, and people with disabilities is complicit in the number of abortions chosen every year.

Increased Commitment

For all of us who find ourselves uncertain about what the law should say when it comes to abortion, perhaps we can find a place of increased commitment to support women and children not as burdens or angels but as the blessed, broken, beautiful creatures we all are. 

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