To the WaPo Reporter: About Your Views on Down Syndrome

Dear Ruth,

I read your recent opinion article in the Washington Post and, despite the fact that I believe in a woman’s right to choose, I hated it.

Let me give you some context. My son does not have Down syndrome, but he has a rare, genetic condition that causes him to have multiple disabilities. If you were to look up his disorder, you’d read words like “intellectually disabled,” “profound,” “nonverbal.” You’d read statements like, “will not walk, talk or feed himself” and “will need constant care.”

In your article, you stated, “certainly, to be a parent is to take the risks that accompany parenting; you love your child for who she is, not what you want her to be.”

After reading your article, it appears to me that you don’t really believe that.

To have an abortion solely because there is a diagnosis of Down syndrome is the complete opposite of loving your child for who she is. It is exactly choosing only the child you want.

Like I said, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. We should talk about when that is challenged. But that’s not what you did. You used your voice, not to support women’s rights, but to perpetuate the idea that some people’s lives are more valuable than others. What you did was perpetuate ableism.

Ableist views are embedded in our society, so I get that you’re not in the minority. But that doesn’t make it right.

What disappoints me most about your article is that by advocating for the right to make your hypothetical choice to have an abortion because of disability is to effectively take your hypothetical self out of a very important conversation: the conversation about how we treat people with disabilities in our society. The conversation about how we support families raising children with disabilities. The conversation about how we support people living with disabilities. The thing is, in these conversations, we need all the voices we can get.

In your article, you said that you could be called selfish for saying you would abort a Down syndrome pregnancy. I agree. In most circumstances, it is indeed selfish to choose only to continue pregnancies that appear to promise a “perfect” baby to fit the life you envision. Ironically, making that choice isn’t even all that protective. Since having my son, I’ve learned there are thousands of rare diseases out there. Most not detectable in a prenatal screening. Not to mention all the other ways disability can happen when you have a child.

But imagine this: imagine a world where everyone’s life was given the same value. Where instead of seeking our preferred life with “perfect” children, we supported each other to love our children for exactly who they are. Imagine we lived in a society that supported families with disabilities. That you didn’t have to fear having a child with disabilities because you knew that society would rally to give them the access and support they need.

Imagine if your future grandchildren read an opinion piece that celebrated the diversity of life and knew that, whether able-bodied or not, their grandmother believed their life was worth living.

You write in your Twitter profile that you are the mother of two “high-quality individuals.” Well, you know what? I am the mother of a high-quality son with multiple disabilities. How fortunate are we?

Getty image by DenKuvaiev

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