Mother says she would have aborted her Down Syndrome daughter

....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.

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  • Every human being has dignity and deserves a chance to live and fulfill their potential. My 13 year old daughter Christina has Down syndrome and autism. She has limited verbal ability but we have no idea of the limits of her intelligence. Like Hallie, I have been a lioness with my local school, even joining the Board of Education . I ultimately took the brave step of ignoring the experts and home educating her. We are doing better than ever and Chrissy has broadened my horizons, and taught me a few things along the way. Thanks to her I wrote a book and traveled the country telling others how much these children deserve a chance to live and grow.
    Read more on my story here.

  • In reply to LeticiaVelasquez:

    I highly recommend reading Christina's story.

  • Nicely written article on a highly controversial topic. My sister was born disabled as when my mother was on her last month of pregnancy with my sister she was in a car accident and her belly hot the steering wheel which caused bleeding. Her doctor have her a pill to save my sister. This was 1962 and that pill later proved to be like throwing acid on a brain. My sister has multiple issues and it has been a long difficult life with my sister for our family. Having a disabled child greatly affects everyone. It changes everyone's ones lives and destroys many. For those involved with a disabled child or sibling. Ask them how their journey has been and you will see the pain in their eyes.

  • In reply to Terri Lee Ryan:

    My sister to was born severely brain damaged due to lack of oxygen at birth, this was back in 1950. My mother obviously had no choice and it pretty much destroyed her when she found out. I have experienced the realistic side of what it's like to have a child like this and what it can do to a family. My sister was mobile with the mind of a two year old and as time past she would get physical, picture a grown women with no mental abilities and with aggression issues. I do agree with Terri Lee how this not only affects the parents but also the siblings. It angers me when I read articles like this with people who want to take the mother's rights away for abortion in these situations, I would like everyone of these people who blow their own horns to take one of these children in and raise them, after all it's the christian thing to do. Then go back to these self righteous individuals in about 20 years and ask them if they still feel the same. Mark my words they would be singing a different tune! If your gonna talk the talk then walk the walk other wise keep quite and allow families to make their own choices, this is a women's individual right which we have been fighting for centuries. Why oh why are there still people and this especially goes out to my fellow women who are trying to destroy what we have been fighting so long and hard for?
    I also can't stand it when people say " God gave you this child for a reason". Bull@#$% god has nothing to do with this, he is a loving god and would not throw this heartache and hardship into anyone's life intentionally. It's a mistake of nature plain and simple.

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