Wednesday 19 June 2013

Who Gets to Decide on Abortion of Special Needs Child?

I found this article in the Globe and Mail about a couple who hired a surrogate to have their baby and then when they discovered the child was going to be special needs, told her to abort.  The surrogate refused and went to an out of state hospital which didn't recognize surrogacy agreements so that she would have control over the baby.

There is a happy ending here.  The baby was placed in a home through a special needs adoption agency.

But this bothers me on some very fundamental levels.  First, I have mixed feelings about using prenatal testing to pass judgment on who gets to live.  There are millions of wonderful, quirky, unusual people with disabilities and special needs.  How many parents would have taken on that challenge by choice?

On the other hand, if a parent knows they cannot handle having a special needs child, should that child who will already have problems be condemned to a life of further difficulty and possible abuse?

There is a great deal of debate sparked by this case.  The usual pro-life vs pro-choice debate doesn't interest me.  To me, the true question is: whose choice was it to make?

The surrogate is the one who will have to undergo a traumatic and difficult medical procedure.  She will have to suffer the physical and emotional after-effects. 

But the parents are the ones who would have to take care of the child.  In a very real sense, the baby was their child.  If the mother had been carrying the baby and the couple decided to terminate, this wouldn't have been an issue.

It seems cruel to leave the surrogate without a choice but at the same time, it doesn't seem right for her choices to trump the parents' wishes.  It would have been best if they could have all talked together about alternatives and arrangements, sparing everyone the drama and stress.

I believe every child deserves the best possible chance in life.  In some ways, I think it might be better if everyone had to go through the difficulty of medical fertility treatments.  Because then we would know that every child out there was desperately wanted.  Maybe not always for the right reasons, but wanted nonetheless.  There are too many children out there who are handicapped by lack of love, whose parents didn't want them.

Selective abortion is a slippery slope and should be treated with extreme caution.  But if it saves a child a life of pain and neglect ... isn't that good?  On the other hand, how could we possibly know what the actual outcome would be? 

As I said, this bothers me.  It challenges my wishful idealized worldview by reminding me that sometimes, the choices all suck.  To me, that's where a society really shows its colours.  Not when the decision is between something right and wrong, but when the decision is between awful choices.

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