Polls suggest public support for abortion is highest when the child is likely to have a deformity or a genetic condition.
Anti-disability bias pervades our legal and medical institutions. Studies show that parents informed that their unborn child will be disabled are often given only the negative aspects of the life to come.
In a 2005 study, Dr. Brian Skotko, a physician at Children’s Hospital Boston, interviewed mothers who had received a definitive prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. He found that most were not informed about “the positive potential of people with Down syndrome, nor did they feel like they received enough up-to-date information or contact information for parent support groups.”
Other studies have concluded that many pregnant women feel pressured to undergo invasive prenatal testing and to abort if results are positive for Down syndrome.
At least 28 states recognize “wrongful birth” lawsuits, in which parents of disabled children are compensated when doctors neglect to tell them their unborn child may be at higher risk of a genetic abnormality in time to abort.
These biases have helped produce an abortion rate of up to 90 percent for babies with Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and other genetic conditions.
With the introduction of universal prenatal genetic testing, as well as more sophisticated and less invasive testing methods, many disability rights advocates worry about what former Washington Post writer Patricia Bauer predicts could be “the elimination of an entire class of people.”
Incidentally, a column by Patricia Bauer in the Washington Post in 2007 is what prompted me to write this:
In no way do I believe that the disabled-even those profoundly disabled-do not have a right to life, cannot enjoy life to some satisfactory extent even by a highly subjective measure, or should not be brought into the world by parents who decide to have them. But the idea that we should encourage parents to bring disabled children into the world in the interest of "genetic diversity" is absurd. Disability is not diversity. The idea that disabled people are objectively "defective" (and I use the world in a clinical sense) in some manner, does not at all mean that they are less worthy of life than non-defective people. I understand that throughout human history, there have been societies who thought so: neither the ancient Spartans nor the more modern Nazis thought much of killing the disabled at birth or later. And I understand that even in our society, there are those who-if they don't quite discriminate against the disabled-still regard even only the physically disabled as "lesser" humans than the rest of us. But the antidote to this backwards and uneducated thinking is not to argue that the disabled are only "different" from the rest of us and that we should actively encourage disability in the name of diversity.
Again: I am not opposed to the idea that people choose not to abort a fetus that is diagnosed with a disability. Neither am I opposed to the idea that some couples may choose to abort that fetus. That is a profound and difficult choice that every couple in that position must struggle to make in accordance with their own consciences. What I am opposed to, is the idea that women should feel compelled to give birth to a disabled child because they would similarly give birth to a non-disabled child. And what I am particularly opposed to, is the idea that disability represents some type of "diversity" that justifies deliberately bringing disabled children into the world. Accepting disabled children as fully realized and valuable human beings capable of living meaningful lives is inarguably correct. Arguing that profound disabilities make someone no more different than having a different skin color, is inarguably wrong.