In the days after the death of President George H. W. Bush, the American public was made aware time and time again of a person who had a major influence on his life and actions: Robin, his daughter.
Her tragic death at 3 years old, from leukemia, caused him immense suffering, but also forged in him a deep compassion and generosity for others, illustrated in stories like the time he shaved his head in solidarity with a young cancer patient, son of a secret service agent. George and Barbara Bush created the Bright Star Foundation in Robin’s honor, and the Bush family has raised millions of dollars for cancer research. President Bush’s legacy also includes his historic signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which offers help and hope to millions.
Today many Americans are choosing not to parent children with life-threatening diseases, or disabilities like Down Syndrome. The pre-born are aborted, or born infants are “let die” — by withholding sustenance or medical treatment — if their parents and/or doctors believe it is in the child’s “best interest.”
Relief of suffering is used as an emotional “hard case” angle to support abortion rights.
For example, in a recent Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal, Molly Jong-Fast wrote that late-term abortion laws, like the one just overruled in Mississippi, are harmful because sometimes genetic tests cannot be performed until the second trimester. She and her husband were told they were both carriers for Canavan’s disease, which is fatal for children by 5 years of age. Genetic tests came back negative for the disease and Jong Fast’s son is now a healthy 14 year old, but she writes: “Having him was the greatest decision I ever made but being forced to carry a terminally ill baby would have been the greatest tragedy of my life. That is why I am committed to keeping second-trimester abortions safe and legal.”
Over at NBCnews.com, Holly Christensen argues against Ohio’s pending ban on eugenic abortion in cases of Down syndrome, even though she has a Down syndrome daughter herself. She says the anti-abortion bill would hurt her and her daughters’ reproductive rights and do nothing to help the disabled.
Her argument goes like this: Ohio is a state controlled by Republicans, therefore it’s “anti-choice” and at the same time keeps cutting funds for the disabled. The “anti-reproductive rights” movement gets more attention and funding then the disability rights movement. So while she could afford to raise and cherish a child with Down syndrome …
“ … when I think about these anti-abortion bills, I imagine the parent who takes public transportation to her two part-time jobs. How is her child going to receive early interventions to lead his best possible life as an adult? If Ohio's Down syndrome abortion ban is upheld, babies born with Down syndrome to mothers of modest means (some of whom might have chosen other futures for themselves) will continue to have limited time and resources to help their children reach their full potential.”
Surely there is twisted logic here, if any.
Abortion law and disability funding are two separate issues. One can advocate for life for Down syndrome babies and lobby for government aid for them as they grow. Of course, if more Down syndrome babies are born, there will be increasing competition for “limited resources.” If the logic is fuzzy, the math is clear. Death is the most cost-saving measure when it comes to the disabled. Christensen seemingly believes some must die so others may thrive.
The bottom line is that life includes suffering, and all parents will suffer because of their children, to one degree or another. No one escapes that, it’s the flip side of the great love and joy parenthood brings.
George and Barbara Bush were spared foreknowledge of Robin’s disease. But had they known, would they have rejected the chance to know and love her? Their noble acceptance of her life and all it meant transformed them and enriched the lives of many others.
Maria McFadden Maffucci is the editor of the Human Life Review, www.humanlifereview.com, a quarterly journal devoted to the defense of human life, founded in 1974 by her father, James P. McFadden, Associate Publisher of National Review. She is President of the Human Life Foundation, based in midtown Manhattan, which publishes the Review and supports pregnancy resource centers. Mrs. Maffucci’s articles and editorials have appeared in the Human Life Review, First Things, National Review Online, National Review, Verily, and Crux. A Holy Cross graduate with a BA in Philosophy, she is married to Robert E. Maffucci, and the mother of three children. Her interests include exploring opportunities for individuals with special needs. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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