Opinion/Editorial: Forcing poor women to have disabled babies is grotesquely Orwellian | Opinion
Forcing a woman to give birth to a baby with severe abnormalities because she is poor is grotesquely Orwellian.
But that’s what Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin will do if he succeeds in his bid to cut state funding for abortions of fetuses diagnosed with major abnormalities.
Youngkin made the ban one of his amendments to the state budget. The request once again proves that Youngkin is cynically political, not compassionate.
Planned Parenthood reports that in fiscal year 2021, the state paid for only 21 such abortions. The nature of the serious anomalies in each case is unknown due to the manner in which the data is stored. But it would be a horrific invasion of privacy and a life-altering tragedy to make this knowledge public. It’s nobody’s business except the parents.
Being forced to bring a child into the world who will suffer chronically or die young because you cannot afford to pay to spare him the suffering adds nothing to society. It’s cruel.
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Who wants to condemn a human being to a life of pain or suffering? If Youngkin’s budget amendment forces one poor woman to do this, it will be an abomination.
Opponents of abortion liken the termination of pregnancies where the babies are likely to be severely harmed physically or mentally to eugenics, the practice of raising a master race like the Nazis tried to do. They suggest that women who terminate their pregnancies when prenatal diagnoses reveal chromosomal problems kill their babies. They like to focus on Down syndrome as a diagnosis that leads to unnecessary deaths with abortion rates reaching 80%.
Many parents of children with Down syndrome tell uplifting stories of adorable children, who find a niche. But the problem here is choice. No one prevents pregnant women who voluntarily decide to have a child, regardless of their disability, from having a baby. It is because they have to choose.
Also remember that what Youngkin is proposing to throw a political bone at her forced pregnancy base isn’t just about Down syndrome. Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder. The second plus, according to the government website Medlineplus.gov is trisomy 18, described as follows:
“Affected individuals may have heart defects and abnormalities of other organs that develop before birth. Other features of trisomy 18 include a small, abnormally shaped head; a small jaw and mouth; and clenched fists with overlapping fingers. Due to the presence of several life-threatening medical conditions, many people with trisomy 18 die before birth or within their first month. Five to 10% of children with this condition live in beyond their first year, and these children often have severe intellectual disabilities.”
We believe in letting women make informed choices about their bodies and their future. This serves children better than forced pregnancies that could result in stillbirths, child deaths, or institutionalization. If possible, it is also important for women to hear from others about their experiences with children with severe abnormalities. This type of information, good or bad, provides context and reduces uncertainty.
As a mother who chose to have two children with Down syndrome wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2008:
“The best way to create a society that embraces differences (genetic and otherwise) is to educate and engage the public and support individual choices, whatever they may be.
“In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Health has been consulting the public since 2002 on prenatal genetic screening, through citizen panels. In addition, its Center for Congenital and Hereditary Diseases (Erfo-centrum) provides reliable, comprehensive (not limited to the medical field) and up-to-date information on genetic and/or hereditary diseases. With unbiased information at their fingertips, around 50% of Dutch women currently refuse prenatal screening for Down syndrome.
That’s how it should be for poor women in Virginia. The state now pays for health care so they have a choice in some of the worst circumstances imaginable.
Glenn Youngkin wants to remove this choice.