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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

"Defective" Humans?

Today I am scheduled for a prenatal sonogram, and I am filled with excitement. I get to learn, I hope, whether my baby is a boy or a girl. This is an occasion of joy, and the opportunity to decide whether to keep the blue hand-me-downs or the pink. Getting a peek into the window of the womb should be a moment of wonder and joy.

Sadly, prenatal testing isn't always either so joyful or so optimistic. It has become routine in the United States for obstetricians to ask pregnosaurs if they want amniocentisis and other screenings for birth defects. The purpose is heavily implied, if not stated outright. "Defective" babies, many in our society believe, ought to be eliminated. UK's Daily Telegraph refers to it as "weed[ing] out those with serious chromosome disorders."

Weeding out?

Are less than perfect babies weeds to be removed like stray thistles? What does this say of our view toward disabled, and for that matter, even minority people? Eugenics have rarely been used to remove the ill or "damaged" from society without eventually progressing to the removal of social outcasts and minorities.

And by "removal" I mean genocide.

Look at what happened when the Nazi party decided to rid Germany of "defective" people. They started with the ill and disabled. They moved on to welfare recipients, retirees, criminals, and social undesireables. Before long, they'd moved from social undesireables to racial undesireables.

Is this really the direction we want to go?

I'm having this sonogram to make sure that the pregnancy is progressing properly, and to prepare myself and my doctor for any potential delivery problems, not to "weed out" my child should he or she be discovered "defective." I already declined genetic testing for my baby.

Does that mean it makes no difference if it turns out that my baby has health problems? Of course not. It simply means that my baby's life is of value for its own sake, and that this value is not dependent on being physically perfect. I dearly hope that my baby will not have any health problems; but I could never stop loving this child, enough to "weed" him or her out, if my hope for a healthy baby were disappointed.

For that matter, I look at my husband. He is one of the most gifted, kind, generous, hard-working people I have ever known. He is a blessing not only to our family, but to each person who has the pleasure of knowing him. I thank God that my mother in law would never have aborted him, had she known that he would be born with asthma, allergies, ADHD, and Tourette's syndrome. I am likewise very grateful for the blessing of my son who has Tourette's.

Anyone who thinks that a child with problems is "defective" must first overlook his own defects; for don't we all suffer from various challenges and shortcomings?

I wish the phrase "birth defect" had never been coined. No human life should ever be considered defective.