My heart froze when I heard about the eradication of Down syndrome in Iceland. According to CBS News, “Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.” Doctors perform these tests on a naturally conceived baby. They can also perform the test on fertilized embryos outside of the womb. When done as a part of IVF, the fertilized embryos not chosen are either discarded or never implanted. IVF helps eradicate down syndrome and potentially could harm other genetic disabilities.
I want to live in a world where disabilities exist!
My relationship with other people with disabilities
My parents were my primary caregivers growing up with a disability. They helped assist me with daily living skills. Growing up with a disability, I didn’t have too many opportunities to rebel against my parents. One of my few moments of independence consisted of going away to summer camps. I would attend camps for people with disabilities. At these camps, we would get to participate in a wide range of activities. Some activities included canoeing, swimming, and arts and crafts. At the camps, there were multiple people with disabilities represented. Meeting people with different physical and mental capacities expanded my horizons.
I met two young bright girls with Down Syndrome. Forget every stereotype you know about people with Down syndrome. these girls broke all of the stereotypes. They were witty, funny, and articulate. Did they have struggles? Yes, they struggled to focus and communicate with a group. They had to share their answer independently. This was very frustrating as a group leader. Yet, I’m glad we got to hear their voices. My experience helped me appreciate different perspectives.
Yet given IVF technology, we are approaching a disability-free world.
What the Catechism says
A child is not something owed to one but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.”170 (CCC 2378)
IVF is wrong because it invites a third party into the marital chamber. Likewise, it makes children into a product we choose. The movie Gattaca embodies this perfectly. The movie describes their first child as a product of love. Not wanting to make the same mistake for the second, the parents opt for IVF. The doctor asks them what they want for their child. The parents sheepishly reply that they were hoping to leave it up to chance. Then the doctor replies, “no you want to give your child the best of you.” He lists out their specifications and encourages them to choose a gender. It is no longer a product of love, but design.
A lot of people feel that it is wrong to knowingly bring a disabled child into this world. They argue that when all things are equal, having a healthy child offers more well-being. The argument is that disabled children are not harmed by not being brought into existence1. People, who make this argument, tend to value what a person can contribute.
We need not look at disability as a disease that society needs to eradicate. Rather, we should see disability as a respectable form of human variation. Disability should be similar to sex, race, and ethnicity. It is morally suspect to choose males over females. Yet a similar decision occurs when we choose disabled over non-disabled. Furthermore, society dictates normal species functioning. Imagine if a majority sprouted wings and could fly. Society would consider those without wings to be disabled.
As someone, who has a disability, I do not want to live in a world where disability no longer exists. My disability has made me a stronger and more resilient person. I am glad that those girls got to have a voice. We soon may be living in a world where people with Down Syndrome don’t exist.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1734131/pdf/v031p00231.pdf ↩
Did you enjoy this article? Sign up now!
About Sarah Bailey
My name is Sarah Bailey. I converted to Catholicism four years ago. My favorite Catholic devotion is Eucharistic adoration. In my free time, I enjoy reading, playing board games and going to concerts. I write weekly at http://confessionsofacatholicconvert.com/