The very appearance of this article, entitled "The Abortion Debate No One Wants to Have," is an indication of why the Washington Post, for all its faults, is a far better and more interesting paper than the increasingly hopeless New York Times, which would never have run such an article.
The author, mother of a Down's syndrome child, points to the fact that today nearly all children diagnosed in utero with Down's syndrome are aborted---upwards of 90 percent. Moreover, she senses that the "right" to abort has become, increasingly, regarded as a social and moral duty. She recounts hearing a "director of an Ivy League ethics program," who stated "that prospective parents have a moral obligation to undergo prenatal testing and to terminate their pregnancy to avoid bringing forth a child with a disability, because it was immoral to subject a child to the kind of suffering he or she would have to endure." A statement that instantly raises the no-longer-amusing-or-hypothetical prospect of "wrongful life" litigation, directed at mothers who "choose life." Unstated, but clearly lurking beneath the surface, is a certain moral indignancy toward those who would presume to inflict such children upon the rest of us.
The author concludes, logically enough, that "there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families." Her stories also suggest that they would rather not have to encounter such freaks in public settings, or be responsible for any of the expense or trouble associated with their care.
Especially interesting, and entirely believable, is this passage:
Many young women, upon meeting us, have asked whether I had "the test." I interpret the question as a get-home-free card. If I say no, they figure, that means I'm a victim of circumstance, and therefore not implicitly repudiating the decision they may make to abort if they think there are disabilities involved. If yes, then it means I'm a right-wing antiabortion nut whose choices aren't relevant to their lives.
I myself recall having a conversation with a Down's syndrome adult man, who noted the disparity between Senator Edward M. Kennedy's well-publicized support for the Special Olympics, and his equally well-known insistence that no woman should have to bear the indignity of a "defective" or unwanted child. "I may be slow," this man observed, "but I am not stupid. Does he think that people like me can't understand what he really thinks of us? That we are not really wanted? That it would be a better world if we didn't exist?"
And wasn't this man right in believing that this exactly what so many of our fellow Americans actually think?