Is It Alright—if the Baby is Disabled?
And finally, we turn to the last scenario. Finding out that the baby she is carrying is disabled is surely a heartbreaking experience for any woman. What should she do in such a situation?
She might feel she would be incompetent to care for a disabled child—or even be unwilling to do it. She may want to spare her child a lifetime of possible heartache, lost opportunities, discrimination, and disadvantage. She might feel that her child would not live a normal life, so why give it to him or her?
But what if the son or daughter that she already has—and who was born without disability—has an accident and becomes a paraplegic? Or suffers a debilitating disease? What would the mother do?
Would she eliminate their existence to spare them from a future life with infirmity?
There are many women in the world who choose to continue with their pregnancy, despite knowing that the baby in their womb has some form of disability or condition. Many of these mothers are pressurised to terminate their pregnancy, but there is no evidence that suggests that doing so is the best option.
The parents may think it would be a better choice for the baby, but in reality, they are more likely to suffer from depression and loss as a result. Some women have even gone on to deliver healthy babies, meaning that there was a misdiagnosis during the pregnancy. And others brought their special babies into this world and gave them as much love as they could, even if it was only for a little while.
This was the reality for 26-year-old Katyia Rowe!
Surprised by her unexpected pregnancy, Katyia and her partner were nevertheless thrilled to discover they were going to be parents. They then received the devastating news that their son had severe brain abnormalities and would never be able to walk or talk. Doctors advised them to consider terminating. But Katyia would not hear of it.
Instead, she read up on her baby’s condition and began preparing herself on the best way to care for him after birth. When more scans were carried out to investigate further, Katyia’s decision was cemented by what she saw on the ultrasound. Her baby boy was smiling, blowing bubbles, and waving his arms. Katyia declared:
“When I saw him smiling and playing inside me, I knew I couldn’t end his life. If he could smile and play and feel, then despite his disabilities, he deserved to enjoy whatever life he had left, no matter how short.”
Despite his disabilities, baby Lucian was very active in the womb.
Every kick, every wriggle, every movement was treasured by Katyia and her partner, who were determined to enjoy every moment they had with their baby.
“He may not have been born but he was already our son and I took each movement as a sign we had done the right thing,” said Katyia.
Sadly, when baby Lucian was born, he only lived for nine hours. And yet, in spite of his short life, his mother had no regrets whatsoever. She made sure he enjoyed his life while inside the womb, instead of taking it away from him. And once born, she was able to hold him and give him cuddles, claiming lovingly: “Just because his life would be shorter or different, didn’t mean he didn’t deserve to experience it.”
And what if the prenatal diagnosis is wrong?
When 24-year-old Gemma Rogers went for a scan at 20 weeks’ pregnancy, doctors told the couple that the baby had spina bifida. They were urged to opt for abortion, because the baby would have no quality of life. He would be born paralysed and incontinent and would never be able to look after himself properly. The doctors told his parents he would be a burden.
Gemma and her partner did not even want to entertain the idea of terminating. This turned out to be the best decision they ever made. When Ciaran was born, Gemma immediately knew the doctors had been wrong.
If Gemma had opted for an abortion, she would have deprived a healthy child of his very life.
Apart from having no problems with his health when he was born, Ciaran went on to grow and develop in the same way as children of the same age. Gemma was deeply troubled by the warnings she had received from her doctors. She said:
“A mother’s instinct is always right and I knew from the moment I was told he would be disabled that I didn’t want to give up hope on my son. I’m so glad I didn’t because he is perfect in every way.”
Even if a diagnosis is correct and a baby is born disabled, no one has the right to decide whether or not they deserve to live, no matter how severe the situation is. A life is not measured by a person’s abilities or disabilities, or by their personal health condition.
Whatever the case, life is always to be valued!
Most people with disabilities say that they would much rather be alive, as opposed to being disposed of in the womb. Aborting people because they are disabled implies that their lives are less worthy than others.
It is deeply mistaken to assume that the life of a disabled person is not worth living. Anyone with a disability can still have a full and happy life. They may need other people’s help, and caring for them might not be easy. And yet, numerous families and caregivers emphasise that looking after the person in their care is hugely rewarding and enriches their lives immensely.
Society abhors any form of discrimination towards disabled people.
This should also apply to people who are still to be born. Just because it is found in the womb does not mean that an embryo should not deserve the chance to live. No one looks at their disabled loved one and decides they need to be put down. The disabled baby in the womb surely merits that same consideration.
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Conclusion: So, No—it is Never Alright!
Apart from being fatal for the baby, abortion in itself is often a traumatic experience for the mother. It may also be extremely risky for her, with lasting psychological and physical side effects. Resorting to it as a way of trying to eradicate other problems will only serve to make the situation worse. Bad circumstances are rarely solved by equally bad decisions.
And let us not forget the most important person in this discussion: the baby!
Today’s society strongly advocates the rights that humans should enjoy universally. Many will claim that a woman who is denied access to have a termination is being robbed of her human rights.
But then, does the innocent baby—a human being just like everyone else—not have rights at all? Does it not have the right to have a chance to live, no matter the circumstances surrounding its young life?
Is it any less human just because it is unwanted?
Even when it is not fully developed, when it doesn’t even resemble the shape of a human being—even when it is unwanted—it is still alive, and it is still human. And it still deserves the chance to live, to be born, to grow, to play, to laugh, to love, and be loved.
If it was you inside that womb, wouldn’t you want to be saved? Without exception?