....if only she had known.
Hallie Levine says she now is crazy in love with her daughter, Jo Jo. But if Hallie knew that Jo Jo had Down Syndrome she would have aborted the child.
In Levine's moving story as a Yahoo parenting columnist, she says that although she truly loves Jo Jo...
I also try not to sugar coat the realities of raising a child like her. Groups like the National Down Syndrome Society have done an amazing job of education and outreach, and I think their positive message is one reason why, as a 2012 study found, termination rates are dropping. But while there are many inspirational people out there with Down syndrome— like Glee’s Lauren Potter and American Horror Story’s Jamie Brewer, or long distance swimmer Karen Gaffney — there are others who are non verbal or battling a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism or struggling with Alzheimer’s. (Down syndrome can significantly raise the risk of dementia.) While Jo Jo has been in overall good health, she still has limited verbal skills and has been dismissed in the past by therapists and school personnel as “low-functioning” and not worth their time and effort.
What prompted her column was Ohio being on the verge of becoming the second state to ban abortions in order to avoid having a baby with Down syndrome. For Levine, it is the mother, and only the mother, who can decide what's good for her child:
As of right now, the only message the Ohio legislation sends to my daughter is that if she gets pregnant, she doesn’t have the right to make decisions based on what she thinks is in her baby’s best interest. And every woman — disabled or otherwise — has that right.
Some things I would like to say:
First, I think Levine is a brave woman, not only for writing a column admitting that her daughter would have been better off dead, but also for the way she has fought for her daughter, for example, sticking up for her against know-it-all educators. I have a mentally challenged relative (not Down syndrome) and I know how tough it can be for the parents, especially for someone raising the child alone.
Second, I'm on the side of Down syndrome activists who oppose abortions of children solely because they have the syndrome. Every life, I know from my relative, is beautiful. Each life ought to be respected. I know, it's easy for me to say, but deciding in advance who is worthy of living seems wrongheaded and sad.
Third, I also know from experience that dire predictions of what a child's life will be like can be wrong. I know of a child who wasn't given much of a chance of living because of serious, usually fatal birth defects. But he has turned out to be a bright, energetic child, the delight of his parents who bravely and admirably decided against abortion.
Fourth, in some other matters dealing with what's in a "baby's best interest," society has determined that it is not in the mother's (or father's) power to have that exclusive authority. Think of the legal entanglements when parents refuse to give a seriously ailing child medical attention for religious reasons. States have set up child services departments to rescue children whose parents have placed them in dangerous, even life-threatening situations.
We are instructed that a mother has this absolute right because the child is growing within her, and that killing the child derives from her absolute right to control her body. It is a stark admission that a child growing in utero is less of a human being than the rest of us. I thought we long ago disposed of the idea that some humans are less than others.
Check out my new website at http://www.dennisbyrne.net where you can find information on my historical novel, Madness: The War of 1812.
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