In Ohio, my home state, the state legislature has approved a bill to ban abortions for pregnant women with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The bill is on Gov. John Kasich’s desk. He hasn’t said if he will sign it.
How do you feel about this?
Here’s what I think:
Viscerally, I couldn’t be more in favor. With the undefeated aid of hindsight, I’m beyond thankful Jillian, now 27, is of this world. What she has brought to our lives can’t be described, only experienced. I can’t imagine our family without her in it. From dealing with families all over the country, via speaking events and personal correspondence, I’m convinced most everyone else in our “community” feels the same.
Practically, if it ensures that people born with Down syndrome will continue to benefit from public research dollars, I’m all in. If it’s legally OK to eliminate an entire segment of our population, why would our legislators feel compelled to ask for dollars for research and/or support for all impacted?
I’m sickened by any notion that people who don’t meet society’s definition of perfect can be done away with. At a time when we in the Down syndrome community are making progress, both concrete and perceptually, anything that furthers that progress should be supported. The definition of perfection is infinitely elastic.
Aborting a fetus because of a diagnosis is the ultimate form of discrimination.
I also think this:
A woman’s right to choose is fundamental. This is the hottest of hot-button issues, I know. It’s not dinner conversation. I respect that. I don’t pass judgment. There is also the question of exclusivity. Why does Down syndrome get a break, and not another physical or intellectual disability? I’m grateful, certainly. But why limit the bill’s scope?
I think, too, that elected officials can do better with the day-to-day things we face: Health care access, meaningful employment and independence, among others.
I think this should not become merely a rallying cry for anti-abortion activists.
That’s all the stuff I think. Here is what I know:
The world is a better place with Jillian in it. She is an example of our better selves. My mother once said to me, “Jillian is who the rest of us should be, but aren’t.” I can’t think of a better description.
Jillian isn’t unique. She is “special” only in the way we think all our kids are special. She comes with her own flaws and talents, same as the rest of us. Her innate gifts involve spectacular shows of the heart. We are perfectly blessed that she is family, and we get to know her.
The bill, if passed, will face tough sledding. The ACLU won’t love it. Similar laws in Indiana and Louisiana have been blocked by the courts. (One, in North Dakota, has not.)
So we’ll see what happens.
If only everyone could experience our joy. This wouldn’t be much of a debate then, would it?
Thanks for reading. As always. . .
Expect. Don’t Accept.
To contact Paul for speaking events or other appearances:
An Uncomplicated Life, Paul’s memoir of raising Jillian, is available on Amazon.com and at brick and mortar stores everywhere.