When I first heard that some parents choose to get abortions after getting a diagnosis of Down syndrome during prenatal testing, I thought it was discriminatory and hurtful to those with disabilities.
I have a brother with autism who shares certain mental disability characteristics with Down’s syndrome, so I know firsthand that those with disabilities can lead fulfilling lives and bring much joy to their families.
My brother is 24 years old now, and I cannot imagine life without him. He is humorous and quite the theme park aficionado. He could tell you all the rides at various theme parks around southern California where we grew up.
Through years of family support, therapists and modified school programs, my brother has accomplished a lot. He now attends community college and is seeking work with the local waste management company because of his love of recycling.
While I commend the spirit and desire to protect those with Down syndrome, it is because of my experience having a brother with disabilities that I do not support H.B. 205, the Down Syndrome Nondiscrimination Abortion Act.
This bill does little to address the needs of persons with Down syndrome and their families. Oftentimes, gaining services for children with disabilities is a difficult and time-consuming task. My brother was fortunate enough to have a mother who studied both law and nursing, allowing her to better navigate the legal system to ensure he received the services to help him become as productive and independent a person as possible. But this has been a continuing struggle despite my mother’s education — schools still discriminated and fought them every step of the way.
Many families will not have the legal expertise or time to tackle such obstacles to ensure they can provide the best care and life for a child with disabilities. Simply restricting abortions on diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other disability does not actually help these individuals and their families.
I would suggest that, rather than burden women with an abortion restriction, our Legislature should instead work to ensure that all women have access to the information and support they need to make the decision that is best for them. We need to provide services and education to ensure those with Down’s syndrome can thrive as human beings. We need to provide funding for school aids and programs to bring these children into mainstream classrooms.
Ensuring more opportunities to live fulfilling and engaged lives would go a lot further in ending stigma against those with disabilities than using the strong arm of the criminal law. Rather than restricting the options available to these potential parents, why not empower them to make the choice to have a child with a disability? By providing greater services and means for children with disabilities to thrive, more families will feel capable of making this choice free from government dictate.
Kevin Posey is a student, class of 2018, at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah.