Should we be happy about eradicating disability?
My 13-year-old’s group text with her friends exploded after a story broke about eradicating Down’s syndrome through prenatal testing and abortion.
My girls don’t live this life in theory; it is their reality. I waited to hear the words from my daughter’s mouth. Would she see the value in her sister’s life? I know it is a struggle to have a big sister who demands so much from all those around her. I wanted to give her room to share the hard stuff and not judge her. I understood. I too, struggle with the hard realities of special needs.
But without skipping a beat, my daughter and her friends were knee-deep in the value of human life. My daughter lives this life and “gets it.” She and her friends were mortified with devaluing life. They grasp the beauty in an uncommon life, not just the struggle.
Three Reasons to Choose Life
Reading the story for myself, I wanted to spew venom at the screen. But my anger began fading into guilt.
Would another mom carrying a similar prenatal diagnosis find life and hope in the words I use to describe my daughter with disabilities? Or, would she use it as a confirmation of too much pain and choose a doctor recommended termination?
God is not surprised by disability. He has a special plan and a purpose for all of us.
How often do I elevate the beauty in my daughter’s life over the struggle? Yes, having a child with special needs is hard, but the beauty outshines the hardships every single day. If given the chance, I would share three reasons to choose life with those who are considering terminating a child with disabilities.
Reason #1: God doesn’t make mistakes.
Psalm 139:13 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God doesn’t make mistakes we need to fix. The baby growing inside isn’t a problem to be solved.
Each child in the womb is exactly who God created him to be without mistake. God is not surprised by disability. He has a special plan and a purpose for all of us, especially with our apparent abilities or disabilities.
Reason #2: Death doesn’t bring life.
The possibility of suffering is a common reason for ending the life of a child with disabilities before birth. It would seem like a humane argument if we could characterize all lives with disability as torment, but we cannot.
Even if we could, the logic of that argument would lead to the death of anyone who suffers. Who could escape that edict? Should we be going to such lengths to avoid suffering? We all suffer, and suffering isn't all bad.
We’re not to run from suffering, but instead, we are to count it all joy when we face trials because they will build character as we mature (James 1). We don’t frolic in the pain like lunatics. But because we know God can bring good out of anything, we eagerly look forward to the fruit hardship will produce in us.
Reason #3: Abilities in life do not have to determine quality of life.
We were told our daughter would have a lower quality of life, but what does that even mean? We spend a great deal of time with individuals who have disabilities, and they’re generally happier and more satisfied with their lives than their peers without disabilities.
C.S. Lewis points out the flaw in this kind of logic when he says, “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
Disability adds far more than it subtracts from the life of the individual affected and those around them. Enduring the struggle builds character and maturity. It also reveals the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us (Galatians 5:22-23).
What We Miss When We Eliminate Disability
Jesus’ words said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). When we lay down our lives for those with special needs, not only do we show great love and selflessness, we can experience a different, more satisfying way of living.
I've watched so many friends deal with the uncertainty of life as they fight for joy and learn to celebrate making it through a day with medically fragile or extreme behaviorally challenging kids. These folks continue to demonstrate a deep joy amidst great trial, which seems humanly impossible. All who watch can say, "Only God."
Is eliminating a struggle without measuring the benefits a road we want to go down as a society? Is this progress or an opportunity not to deal with hard things? What if we are eliminating a genuine source of growth and goodness in the name of scientific advancements?
I would go as far as to say we need disability in our world to show us aspects of who God is and who we can become through the unique perspective and beauty. Those with Down’s syndrome don’t reflect the worst among us, but the best of who we are and who we can be. May we see all people through God's eyes as gifts to be celebrated rather than deficits to be put away.