Abortion Is Not the Answer for Women with Disabilities
As a woman living with cerebral palsy, I was instantly drawn to the recent Time Magazine article titled “For People With Disabilities, Losing Abortion Access Can Be a Matter of Life or Death.“ The title is actually correct, although not in the way the author intended. The abortion industry often targets unborn children who have been diagnosed with physical and genetic disabilities after prenatal testing. So yes, the loss of “abortion access” is a chance for life for many unborn children with disabilities, like me.
Unfortunately, the article was not about protecting children with disabilities.
We know the abortion rate skyrockets after a prenatal diagnosis shows the baby has a disability or abnormality. The rate of abortion for unborn children with Down syndrome alone is between 60% and 90% in the U.S. The article completely ignores these statistics.
The author gives examples of several women with disabilities who claim abortion access is necessary for their health. Not unlike many other women, the motives behind these assertions seem to come down to fear. Being a quadriplegic with a severe speech impairment, I completely understand the fear of losing independence, the threat of complicating health issues, the worry that those complications could even lead to death, as well as the general unrelenting desire to live as normal a life as possible.
The article’s author, Jamie Ducharme, also argues that sexual assaults are more likely to happen to women with disabilities. Rather than demanding more protection for women, especially those with disabilities, to alleviate the fear of sexual assault, the article once again offers abortion as the solution. This does not help uphold women’s dignity, prevent the crime and trauma of assault, or punish the criminal. It only punishes the innocent unborn child by denying him or her life.
From “a chance of organ rupture,” to concerns about sexual assault on women with disabilities, to “potentially fatal” pregnancy and childbirth, the women in the article see abortion as the solution. While their concerns are definitely legitimate fears, pro-life doctors assert that abortion is never needed to save the life of the mother.
Certainly, there are medical emergencies that necessitate delivering the baby early — even before the baby is viable. The baby may not survive, but this is not an abortion. In this case, all medical care should be provided to both the woman and the baby. This is a completely different medical procedure and mindset than an abortion, which intentionally ends a life.
As with most medical conditions, the women in this article no doubt have likely submitted to a long list of do’s and don’ts throughout their lives, including medications that often place restrictions on foods, drinks, exercise, etc. I, too, have been given such a list. We all follow these directives for our own good. None of us see it as a restriction of our rights or freedoms. We acknowledge that actions have consequences, but for some reason when it comes to sexual relationships, too many people deny this.
Those of us with disabilities should have an advantage of not falling into the cultural lie that it’s possible to separate actions from consequences. We know from first-hand experience that our bodies will have a response to all sorts of actions. Yes, it is only natural that people who live with disabilities desire and deserve meaningful relationships, but like everyone else, dealing with the consequences of those relationships needs to be thought through ahead of time.
Personal struggles in my own life and in the lives of many friends with disabilities lead me to agree with the woman quoted at the end of the article: “Me and God have fought for my life to get this far. You have no idea how hard we have fought… I’m not going to just give that up because I got pregnant.” While our own struggle to achieve and maintain our life goals can seem like a never-ending uphill battle, reaching them should never come at the cost of taking an innocent life. Just as it would be wrong to purposely end this woman’s life for the sake of her unborn child, it would be equally wrong to purposely end her child’s life to preserve her own. Giving the best possible medical care to both the mother and unborn child is the best way to eliminate fears of health concerns and protect both lives.
In reality, for those with disabilities, loss of “abortion access” really is a matter of life! Life for those with a prenatal diagnosis and life for moms with disabilities and their babies who will receive the best medical care. Let’s work to eliminate fears for all women in unplanned pregnancies, including those with disabilities, instead of defaulting to abortion as the solution.
Megan Gannon graduated in 1997 from George Mason University. She is the author of “Special Saints for Special People.” Born with cerebral palsy, Megan has persevered through many physical obstacles, including speech impairment and quadriplegia.