Jesus and Down Syndrome

This post appeared yesterday on the Park Forum, and the issues it raises are important enough to me that I wanted to repost it in its entirety here, with some additional questions at the end:

The title of the article gives away much of the content: Three Babies Aborted Every Day Due to Down Syndrome. The study took place in England and Wales, but researchers have found similar results in the US (given a higher population in the US, however, the number of babies aborted every day due to Down syndrome is more than three). Since more women are having children in their 30’s and 40’s, more babies with Down syndrome are conceived now than ever before. According to the article, “If women were not screened for the condition, the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome would have increased by half [over the past twenty years].” Due to the increase in prenatal testing, however, more of those babies are detected in utero, and therefore aborted.

Our daughter Penny, age 3 1/2 has Down syndrome. Her favorite story from the Bible is of Jesus with the little children:

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)

The kingdom belongs to the little ones. May we receive them, with Jesus’ blessing.

And now, some questions:

This is all well and good, easy for me to say, as a Christian, as a person with financial stability, and as a mother of a child with Down syndrome. I want to argue that no one should abort a child based upon the diagnosis of Down syndrome, and yet I am also aware that I pass that judgment in absolute terms, without taking into consideration the very different contexts in which some women find themselves. Do most women who terminate these pregnancies do so out of economic necessity (perceived or otherwise)? Out of fear? Out of a sense that they are entitled to a certain type of baby? Due to pressure from doctors or family members? Is it ever morally right to decide to terminate? Put another way, is it always wrong?

One last question, to move from the ideal to the real… What should we be doing, as individuals within this culture, to ensure that women feel supported and equipped to keep their babies, extra chromosome or not?

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About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).