January 15, 2015

It's Not About Me; or Why My Special Needs Child Has a Right to Exist

I should know better by now, but recently I've engaged in several online arguments about the rights of people with disabilities to exist in this world, and in particular, the right of unborn children with disabilities to not be aborted.

One "argument" really stuck out to me- "Your kid is alive and no one forced you to abort, because it's your CHOICE!"

Ah, but see, it's not my choice.  My daughter doesn't have a right to be here because I chose not to kill her.  She has a right to live because she's a human being with intrinsic worth and value, a fact that's been true since the very moment of her conception.  And while this is true of all unborn children, but the point is particularly important when we're talking about those diagnosed prenatally* with disabilities, because they belong to a class of people who to this day still aren't considered fully human by society.

I mean, how often have you heard someone say "Of course I'm against abortion!  Well, unless there's something wrong with it, obviously..." 

See my point?  Even people who can see the value in the life of a "normal" unborn child often can't see it in one with a disability- especially a profound or life threatening condition.

Here's the thing- our ME-obsessed society has decided that we have a right to have children (and therefore, a right not to have children). That children exist to serve some purpose in our lives and fulfill something in us.  This is why we have contraception, abortion, IVF, etc.  It all ties back to our mistaken believe that we have a right to have (or not to have) children. But as Catholics, we know this isn't true.  From the Catechism-

Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator".219 He is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake",220 and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.
Children are not a right.  We are not owed them.  They exist for their own sake.  So no, my children, and in particular my special needs child, do not have a right to exist because I "chose" not to kill them.  They have a right to exist because through grace they were conceived, and from that moment they existed for their own sake, not mine.  For their own lives, their own purposes, not mine.

And this is why all the arguments in favor of aborting children with disabilities fall flat.  It doesn't matter if you can handle it.  It doesn't matter if you don't think it's "fair."  It doesn't matter if you don't want a "retarded" kid. It's not about you. And it doesn't matter if they may suffer and if their life may be short.  They have a God-given right to the life that they've been given, period.  It's not for any of us to decide that that life is not worth living.

*For the record, my daughter's disability was not diagnosed prenatally- it's the result of a birth injury.  A fact which I've heard is "too bad" because I didn't have a chance to "take care of it" before she was born.  You know...kill her.

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