Choosing A Special Needs Child


Andrew Solomon is troubled by North Dakota’s new abortion laws, which “criminalize selective abortion, which means that a woman cannot choose to terminate a pregnancy because she knows the fetus has a genetic abnormality, or to select for other characteristics, such as gender.” He is in favor of choice but also the choice to embrace the joy that children with special needs can bring:

I have written in my most recent book, “Far From the Tree,” about the rich experience many parents find in children with conditions against which people often select. I would never propose to anyone—even to myself—that such parents’ rapture constitutes an imperative to bring similar children into the world.

I do see a problem, however, in the speed with which women who have no prior exposure to the conditions in question are expected to make these decisions. Women often terminate a pregnancy without knowing what life would be like with and for an anomalous child. It is worth publicizing the satisfaction that the experience may entail, so that the pro-choice movement becomes the pro-informed-choice movement. Others have already pointed out that if we want people to keep these pregnancies, we might start by providing better services for people with disabilities; our neglect of decent care is a national disgrace, and is ignored in North Dakota’s new statutes.

We’re back to the seamless garment of Catholic teaching.

(Photo: Russian actress Evelina Bledans plays with her son Semyon, a child with Down syndrome, in their country house outside Moscow, on February 8, 2013. Evelina’s decision to keep her little son and recount his life in a blog named after him is often met with incomprehension in Russia, where the majority of children with Down syndrome are abandoned by their parents immediately after birth. By Kirill Kudravtsev/AFP/Getty Images.)