Tough Decisions on Disabilities and Abortion

I’ve read on a few different blogs about a serious concern. As the ability to detect disabilities in fetuses continues to advance, will women be more likely to have an abortion? On one side of the argument is those mothers of disabled children who say they wouldn’t change a thing and love their children as they are. On the other hand there are women who ended their pregnancy because they didn’t think they could afford to pay the medical bills and care for another human for a lifetime.

As someone with a disability, this is a very difficult subject to write about. What if I had been conceived in this era instead of the 70s. Would my mother abort me? Of course, this subject isn’t black or white. What a woman decides depends so much on her financial situation, her support system, and how severely disabled the child will be.

Some women decide to go ahead and give birth knowing the child will die. They feel that the few moments or days they have with their infant is worth the birthing process and eventual grief. There are perinatal hospice organizations set up to assist families.

What is your opinion?

About Tara "Masery" Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a Neo-Pagan panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She is the editor of Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul which you can find at Immanion press. She has a minor is religion from Southeast Missouri State Missouri State University with an emphasis in mysticism. Masery has lead various groups over the years and organized Pagan Pride Day events. Her magic and author page is at

  • Christine Kraemer

    Sitting here with my four-month-old, I feel that I would abort a child with severe birth defects, because the thought of my child suffering breaks my heart. I would rather have released his soul for a different incarnation than have him here but in pain.

  • Drew Hymer

    What do you mean “it isn’t black and white”. You shouldn’t be able to kill someone because he’s disabled. To do so is the darkest evil. If you can’t afford the baby, put him up for adoption but do your parental duty until then

    • emonyna .

      It’s not about killing, it’s about not giving birth in the first place. Having an abortion because you can’t afford a disabled child and murdering actual disabled people are quite different things.
      And while adoption seems like a nice option, not every parent is ready to have a disabled child. Not every institution is equipped to care for them.

  • Sarah Whedon

    I think this is a critical part of your post: “Of course, this subject isn’t black or white. What a woman decides depends so much on her financial situation, her support system, and how severely disabled the child will be.” I’m interested in people’s ethical reasoning around this, but at the end of the day I trust that each pregnant person makes the best choice they can given the information and resources they have at that time.

  • Nobilis

    Like anything else, this is a more complicated question than simply yes or no.

    Color blindness? Yeah, I’d feel justified in disapproving of someone’s decision to end a pregnancy over that.

    Anencephaly? No problem here. Go ahead, I won’t even frown.

    In between? Lots of shades of gray here.

    • Bubba

      This is really the crux of the matter, the 99% of difficulty that lies in the gray area. Many diagnoses of defects are in the realm of, ‘we don’t really know how it will turn out’. But of course as prospective parents the fact that something might be wrong ensures they will turn to the ‘experts’ and make it clear that they want a definitive prognosis, to minimize their uncertainty. This is where medical professionals have an enormous amount of influence in decision making, even though everyone involved may be thinking, ‘well, this is the medical condition and our decision is based on that’.
      My point here is that while many may have personal beliefs concerning what viability of life means, it is a scary time and doctors can persuade in a particular direction, even if they believe they are being neutral. This goes both ways: if the physician is religious people will be up in arms that religion has no place in the medical model. On the other side of the spectrum is a place such as the Netherlands where each year hundreds (i kid you not, the statistics are public knowledge) of severely disabled children are put in the ‘assisted dying’ paradigm AFTER birth.
      My youngest was born with severe brain damage and a host of medical problems and we did all possible testing with nothing showing up (fate?). He was given less than a year to live and each day has been a struggle for survival with death trying to get its clammy hands on him on a number of occasions but luck, fortitude, medical intervention and extremely intensive treatments 24/7, day in – day out, have kept him, and even his smile, going for 16 years this March.
      If I had been presented with a scenario 16 years ago that ‘something’ was wrong, we would still not have aborted. Despite that my son’s something is nothing short of a catastrophe does not diminish one iota from the definition of “Quality of life: moments of joy”.

  • kadiera

    It’s so complex. And these days….I think that it’s often not our place to pass judgement on the choices others make about their bodies, pregnancies, and families. We don’t know all the details, and we don’t walk their path.

    I know parents who have aborted, feeling that the difficulty the child would face was beyond what any child should – that letting them live to suffer was a greater horror than terminating the pregnancy, and fearing the results on the rest of their family. And I know those who refused to do more testing even knowing the likelihood their child would not live more than a few months, because it would not change their decision to love this child as long as they live.

    Interestingly, one family I know who continued their pregnancy, knowing that their child’s diagnosis was “incompatible with life,” have a very disabled but thriving 4 year old who wasn’t supposed to survive her birth; the family I’m most familiar with who aborted did so based on a severe heart defect that is often treatable with multiple surgeries, but often results in an eventual transplant.

    There was once a time where I wanted a child so badly that I couldn’t envision abortion for any reason. Now that I know what I know, and have seen what I’ve seen…I still doubt that I would, but I have much greater understanding of those who choose not to continue their pregnancy.

  • Jennifer Gibbs

    it’s complicated. some people know what they’re able to take on and plow right through knowing anything that can be thrown at them will be embraced and molded into their lives.
    way back when, we didn’t have options and took life as it came at us. in a way I wish we could go back to that era, because people are so ready to throw away things that frighten them and make them nervous today. they lose faith in their abilities to handle tough situations. no situation is perfect.

    personally I chose to not take the tests offered even just to know. we knew of the possibility genetically in the family histories and went in blindly. the universe has a way of working itself out and showing us what we can handle and how strong we really are somethings. (I guess i’m a leap of faith kind of girl)

    not everyone is, and to each her own.

  • Kayt Rivermoon

    Interestingly, no one is considering quality-of-life issues—for the parents, for the disabled child, even for the other children in the family. When I see a severely disabled person I wonder, when his/her parents, who are caring for him/her die, then what will happen ? Will they be institutionalized ? There are no hard-and-fast answers here, at birth, and at the other end of a life, with euthanasia.

    • JezabelleDisreali

      That for me is the big thing. I had to help take care of my niece when she was younger. She is adopted, and her biological mother did awful drugs during her pregnancy. I know, after taking care of my niece, that I do not have the ability to care for a disabled child day-in-day out for years even if I had a good support system. I still worry about her, and what’s going to happen now that she’s grown up (legally) and trying to leave the nest. I worry about what will happen to her if her parents die. It’s a genuine concern, and one that really needs to be thought about long and hard.