Take, for example, the recent Time magazine feature story on the moral and ethical storms that are raging all around the evolving field of prenatal tests that help parents discover it their unborn children have Down Syndrome or suffer from some other condition (perhaps their gender is female) that makes them less than perfect and, thus, less worthy of being born.
The online Time site contains a tiny piece of the recent article (full text for subscribers only), which focuses on the life of a Down Syndrome child whose existence is the hook for the story — 4-year-old Gracie Perkins McLaughlin — the daughter of Melanie Perkins McLaughlin. This article, as we say here at GetReligion, has its share of religion “ghosts.”
However, that same Time site search for Gracie’s name also reveals the presence of an online article from late last year that contains much of the information that ran in the dead-tree-pulp version three months later. And that earlier article starts in a way that takes one of the main moral issues linked to this subject and puts it right in the lede:
Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about Melanie Perkins McLaughlin is that she’s not pro-life or pro-choice or pro anything — other than pro-information.
When a distraught pregnant woman phones a Massachusetts hotline for Down syndrome, agonizing over what to do with an unexpected prenatal diagnosis, she will be routed to Perkins McLaughlin, who went through the same awful calculations in 2007.
The article goes on to discuss a wide variety of issues linked to the lives of Down Syndrome children, and the reality of the fact that the lives of so many Down Syndrome children end in abortion. For example, it is highly ironic that modern science is making life much easier for the parents of Down Syndrome babies and making the lives of their children much more fulfilling and well rounded. Yet this trend coexists with the growth of less invasive forms of prenatal tests that make it easier to detect this condition and, if parents choose to do so, to abort these “flawed” unborn children. At some point, will the decreasing number of surviving Down syndrome babies make it hard to justify the financial cost of the programs that make their lives worth living?
If readers want to see this question discussed in openly moral or religious terms, they will need to look elsewhere. That theme is not included in this otherwise gripping Time piece.
But there is one tiny reference that hints at faith content. I would like to let you read this reference in context, but that content is only available to Time subscribers.
Perkins McLaughlin says it took her eight hours after her C-section to muster the nerve to go visit her daughter, Gracie, in the neonatal intensive care unit. “There are people out there who feel the test is great,” says Perkins McLaughlin. “In some ways, it is great. But it is scary too. Will more people terminate because it’s earlier in the pregnancy and why not just try again? I don’t know what I would have done if I had found out at 10 weeks.”
Gracie is now 3 1/2. In the two years since Perkins McLaughin, now 44, has served as a parent mentor for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, she’s told the dozen or so conflicted pregnant women who have contacted her that Gracie is bright: she started signing at six months and had accumulated 100 signs by age 2, prompting her grandmother to ask, Are you sure she has Down syndrome? She loves music, dancing and her older brother and sister. Perkins McLaughin tells them how Gracie has added perspective to her life, softening her Type-A edges. “She’s not going to do quantum physics, but I don’t do quantum physics,” says Perkins McLaughin. “Gracie has showed me in a profound way that I am not in control of everything. I have a bumper sticker that says, Grace Happens.”
Now, I know that “grace” means different things to different people.
However, if you read the whole story — either version — it’s hard not to wonder if little Gracie is alive, in part, because her mother had a bit of faith that made her open to seeing her daughter’s life as a gift. Perhaps this rather obvious question should have been asked.