"Out of the mouths of children and babies Thou hast ordained praise...." (Psalm 8:2)
What About Disabled Children?
by Randy Alcorn
Encouraging Mothers And Fathers To Choose Life For Their Unborn Babies
Some argue, "It's cruel to let a handicapped child be born to a miserable and meaningless life." But what do the disabled think about their lives?
Spina bifida patients were asked whether their handicaps made life meaningless and if they should have been allowed to die after birth. "Their unanimous
response was forceful. Of course they wanted to live! In fact, they thought the question was ridiculous."1
I heard a pro-choice advocate say of a severely handicapped child, "Should a woman be forced to bring a monster into the world?" Only by using such words can we
deceive ourselves into believing them. The term vegetable is another popular word for disadvantaged humans. Such terminology dehumanizes people in our
eyes but doesn't change who they are.
A bruised apple is still an apple. A blind dog is still a dog. A senile woman is still a woman. A handicapped child is still a child. A person's nature and worth
aren't changed by a handicap.
Some doctors recommend "terminating the pregnancy" if a couple's genetic history suggests a risk of abnormality. The standard test for possible deformities is done by
amniocentesis. In 2000, the National Vital Statistics Report indicated that 28.9 women per 1,000 suffered complications from amniocentesis placing the risk factor at
nearly three per hundred women.2 The Centers for Disease Control estimate that in early amniocentesis the rate of death to the unborn through miscarriage is "between one
in 400 and one in 200 procedures." The study also found a striking tenfold increase in the risk of clubfoot deformity after early amniocentesis.3 Ironically, then, a
procedure designed to identify fetal deformity actually has a considerable chance of causing it.
Amniocentesis is frequently done to indentify Down's syndrome children so parents have the option of abortion. The risk of miscarriage as a result of amniocentesis is
almost exactly the same as the risk for Down's syndrome.4
A survey of pediatricians and pediatric surgeons revealed that more than two out of three would go along with parents' wishes to deny lifesaving surgery to a child with Down's
syndrome. On the one hand, we provide special parking and elevators for the handicapped. We talk tenderly about those poster children with spina bifida and Down's syndrome.
We sponser Special Olympics and cheer on the competitors, speaking of the joy and inspiration they bring us. But when we hear a woman is carrying one of these very children, we
say, "Kill it."
Significantly, "there has not been a single organization of parents of mentally retarded children that has ever endorsed abortion."5
Suppose your six-year-old becomes blind or paraplegic. He's now a burden. Raising him is expensive, inconvenient, and hard on your mental health. Should you put him to death?
If a law were passed that made it legal to put him to death, would you do it? If not, why not?
You wouldn't kill your handicapped child because you know him. But killing an unborn child just because you haven't held him in your arms and can't hear his cry doesn't
change his value or reduce his loss. Give yourself a chance to know your child. You will love him.
What about the anencephalic child who doesn't have a fully developed brain? Since he will die anyway, doctors often advise parents to have an abortion. But it's one thing to know
a child will probably die, and entirely another to choose to take his life. Many families hae had precious experiences naming, holding, and bonding with an anencephalic baby after
birth. When he dies, they experience healthy grief at the natural death of their family member. This is in stakr contrast to the unhealthy grief and guilt that comes from denying
a baby's place in the family, and taking his life.
The quality of a society is largely defined by how it treats its weakest members. Killing the innocent is never justified because it relieves others of a burden. It's not a solution
to inflict suffering on one person in order to avoid it in another. If we abort children because of their handicaps, it jeopardizes all handicapped people.
- Randy Alcorn, in "WHY PRO-LIFE? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers"
Purchase the book at www.epm.org .
1. W. Peacock, "Active Voluntary Euthanasia", Issues in Law and Medicine, 1987. Cited by John Willke, Abortion Questions and Answers (Cincinnati, OH: Hayes Publishing
Co., 1988), 212.
2. National Vital Statistics Report, vol. 48, no 3, March 28, 2000.
3. March of Dimes Foundation, 2003,
4. World Congress of Families Update, vol. 3, issue 1119, March 2002, www.worldcongress.org/WCFUpdate/Archive03/wcf_update_311.htm citing R. E. Gilbert, et al., "Screening for Down's Syndrome:
Effects, Safety, and Cost-Effectiveness of First- and Second-Trimester Strategies"; and Euan M. Wallace and Sheila Mulvey, "Commentary: Results May Not Be Widely Applicable", BMJ 2001; 323:1-6 (25 August 2001);
5. Willke, Abortion Questions, 211.