Following my callout for stories from expectant parents confronting a Down Syndrome diagnosis, a reader steps forward:
My wife and I discovered early in her second pregnancy that the fetus had Down Syndrome, and we elected to abort. It was a difficult decision, but I will always fight to make sure others in our situation are permitted the same choices we had.
I believe that people tend to overlook the complexity of this tragic question and forget that everyone’s situation is unique. (Our first child was already diagnosed with a genetic disorder, and we were not sure we had the resources to care for two special needs children.) Furthermore, there’s a tendency to see Down Syndrome births as occurring in a vacuum—a single potential life whose existence is predicated on an abortion decision. Three months later (well before the expected delivery date of the terminated pregnancy) we were expecting once again, and had a healthy baby girl. Is her existence a violation of some higher power’s plan?
“Everyone’s situation is unique” carries the same meaning as “It’s So Personal,” the name of an Atlantic/Dish reader series on late-term abortions that I edited back in 2009. (It was prompted by my former colleague Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to the assassination of abortionist George Tiller.) Those personal stories center on genetic abnormalities more severe than Down Syndrome, but, as this second reader explains, that line is often blurrier than I assume:
Parents who abort because of Down Syndrome get singularly called out in these discussions and that is a real shame. They already live with the pain of not knowing where their baby would have fallen on the spectrum of health for Down Syndrome. Children with the syndrome have a wide variety of health outcomes, from death in utero to potentially long lives. Some live short lives full of pain. Some live long healthy lives. A parent can’t know which the child will have in advance.