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23 April 2013

Comment: Would you abort a disabled child?

I didn't know about my son's autism in the womb, but society's focus should be on making life better for those with disabilities, writes Kristina Chew in the Guardian.

Chew begins:

‘If you found out the baby you’re expecting would be autistic, what would you do?

’ Currently there is no prenatal genetic test for autism, the neurological developmental disorder that numerous children – 1 in 88 or even 1 in 50 – are being diagnosed with. Such prenatal tests exist for other conditions such as Down’s syndrome. On learning their fetus could have this intellectual disability, between 70 and 85% of pregnant women in the US choose abortion, writes Amy Julia Becker, whose 7-year-old daughter Penny has Down’s syndrome, in The Atlantic.

‘On March 26, North Dakota became the first US state to prohibit abortions after detection of “either a genetic abnormality or a potential for a genetic abnormality,” with this defined as “any defect, disease or disorder that is inherited genetically”. Down’s syndrome is specifically cited in House Bill 1305.

‘Some disability advocates have hailed the law as a step forward to create a better society for individuals with disabilities. As Mark Leach, a lawyer and parent of a child with Down’s syndrome, writes, banning the discrimination of a child with disabilities even before she or he is born is an example of how “public policy starts with the statement that discrimination is prohibited and then states enact policies to create a society where discrimination is no longer a barrier.”

‘A result of passing such laws could indeed be “to increase the number of advocates for ... social supports” – for education and other support services for individuals with disabilities, he argues.

‘Knowing that society is not a place where individuals with disabilities are fully supported and integrated is why many women have terminated their pregnancies when they learn that their child has Down’s syndrome, Alison Piepmeier, whose 4-year-old daughter, Maybelle, has Down’s syndrome, is writing a book on prenatal testing and reproductive decision-making. In a preview in the New York Times, she shares that the many women she has spoken to all emphasized that “abortion was an incredibly painful decision,” but one they chose in no small part because “they recognized that the world is a difficult place for people with intellectual disabilities”....’

Read the full article here:

Would you abort a disabled child? By Kristina Chew. Guardian, 22 April 2013