A couple of days a week, I’m privileged to work here in Sydney, as a disability support worker. What a privilege it is.
The joy and happiness that greets me when I walk into the room knocks me back, every single time. What’s more, just for a second, before the dancing and the art, the sport and the learning begins, I consider what it is that gives my life meaning and value as an individual.
In the last seven years, not one baby with Down-Syndrome has been born in China, Iceland or Denmark. In the US, 92% of unborn Down syndrome babies are terminated, 93% are aborted in the UK and only 5% make it to the delivery room here in Australia.
South Australia’s 2015 abortion report, published last month, revealed that of all the abortions that occurred due to disability of the unborn baby, 56.5% of cases were due to ‘chromosomal abnormality’, most likely Down syndrome.
Of the many abortions that are carried out after a child is identified as having a disability, a distressing 29.4% of these occur after 20 weeks. This occurs despite phenomenal advances in medicine that increasingly see premature children, born after 23 weeks, go on to live happy, healthy lives.
Now don’t get me wrong, if I received the news that my (hypothetical, sorry mum, no grandchildren yet!) unborn baby had Down syndrome, would my gut reaction be to punch the air? It probably wouldn’t be.
Despite this, the truth is very simple – those with a disability, almost exclusively live incredibly enjoyable and meaningful lives. Their smiles, excitement and enthusiasm for the day ahead, certainly put mine to shame on a Monday morning. I’ve never encountered any member of the disability community who has questioned their right to existence. If they don’t, who gives us the right to?
Furthermore, for parents, raising a child with a disability can bring joy every bit as powerful as conventional parenthood. Of course, there will be testing moments and without question mum and dad will need to show devotion, patience and love to their differently abled child. Nonetheless, while different parents will face different challenges, the adoration in the eyes of their children is universal. The wonders of being a mother or a father are found, not just in predetermined outcome, but in the unique and inspiring journey.
Just ask the mother of Wells who, in her blog ‘Nothing down about it’, has documented the initial challenges alongside the joyful and love-filled life, her, her family and their precious son now enjoy together.
Our society rightly strives to be a place free from discrimination. Yet many now openly speak positively about the eradication of those with differences totally beyond their control.
Difference is what makes us strong, it’s what makes our society interesting and vibrant. Those with a disability open our eyes to new perspectives and new experiences, the overwhelming majority of them positive. I for one, would rather look around our world and see diverse, different individuals – each with their own personalities, stories and eccentricities, than a homogenous collective consumed by societally-set desires. We don’t need less unique characters on our planet, we need more!
We’re hurtling toward a world in which we ascribe a set rate of worth to our children, even before they’re born. Achievement can never be measured on a standard societal chart or an economic spreadsheet. Its glory comes in its story, its context and in its personal meaning.
Life isn’t an easy ride. We all face challenges, we all face sad and lonely days. What’s more important is that we all experience movements of unique individual joy and of incredible personal happiness. It is as one of a kind individuals that we find our wider societal belonging.
Yes, some climb higher obstacles than others but this only makes their achievements more spectacular. In the end, a society that seeks to eradicate those who are different will be a weaker, sadder and less interesting one.
Abortion is damaging our individuality, our vibrancy and our happiness. It’s time we embraced difference, celebrated diversity and took a stand for life.