I got some thoughtful responses over the weekend about my Down syndrome post. A few snippets:
I am reminded, also, of The Silver Crown, a Bernard Malamud story, in which a rabbi’s daughter is handicapped. At one point in the story, and to the astonishment of the protagonist, the rabbi calls her “Perfect.”
Of course, the rabbi’s daughter is perfect, perfect in the eyes of her Creator, perfectly equal in a moral sense to everyone else. But she’s still handicapped, and it would be better if she weren’t. From another reader:
Bravo on your post regarding Down Syndrome. I happen to have a child who is cognitively impaired. All things considered (and over the course of his 17 years many things have been considered), he’s doing right well. But the fact that he has immeasurably enriched our lives is not the same thing as saying his life would be incomplete if he weren’t disabled. In fact, that’s nonsense. I hope that the medical types are laboring away even as we speak attempting to figure out what causes cognitive impairment and how to prevent it.
Disagreeing somewhat is this from another reader:
People are seeking to “eliminate this disorder” as you put it in your little Corner article. They are doing it via an inutero genocide at an alarming rate. Unlike being fat, or being deaf, there are no weight loss programs or cochlear implants for my son with Down syndrome. He had Down syndrome at conception, he has it now, and he will always have it, there was no other option. Do I wish for a life for my Sam that would be different if he did not have Down syndrome? Of course, I do…but in reality, if you took away Down syndrome from Sam, he wouldn’t be the same kid…since that’s who he was at conception…and if we believe that’s when life begins (as I do), then to take it away would make him a wholely different person. I think you’ve gotten your analysis of the article wrong.
Actually, I think he’s making my point — advances in genetic testing combined with easy access to abortion means that babies with Down syndrome will never see the light of day. Since pro-choicers (like the author of the original piece I commented on) can’t bring themselves to support strict limits on abortion, they are in the absurd position of having to try to persuade people that they shouldn’t want their babies not to have Down syndrome, because it’s just part of life’s rich diversity.