Two op-eds from the Charlotte [North Carolina] News & Observer:
Ellen Russell, who recently celebrated her 29-year-old daughter Emily’s marriage (photo at left), questions Prof. Harris’ assertion that a child with Down syndrome had “ruined” the lives of a family of his acquaintance. She says such a statement misses the lesson of the last thirty-plus years of advocacy by families of people with intellectual disabilities.
Perhaps that family could never access what it needed in the educational, social, day-care, employment or medical systems. Perhaps it didn’t have the encouragement of family, neighbors and friends. It is impossible for me to accept that it was the child who ruined their lives. I can give a hundred personal examples of families whose lives have flourished and benefited from the experience of having a child with Down syndrome.
Those of us who work in this field are painfully aware of a time when people with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities were warehoused in horrible places, relegated to existences of neglect and squalor. The decades of reform that followed this national shame led to an emphasis on higher developmental and social expectations. Lo and behold, given humane treatment, respect for individual preferences, and the belief that everyone can succeed, people excelled and took their places in the community.
Experiences, options, participation, inclusion with nondisabled peers and, yes, common sense have opened doors to real lives for people with disabilities. Today families seek and demand educational, recreational, vocational, residential options in the community for their family members with Down syndrome. They do so because real life makes a difference.
… all our children have experiences and influences, good and bad that shape their lives and affect their families. In the end, we all want our children to be happy, successful, kind, respected, loving and loved human beings. None of those things requires a particular number of chromosomes.
Rick Martinez compares the lesson of Down syndrome with his perceptions about the life of Pope John Paul, whose years living with Parkinson’s disease were widely documented in the media.
John Paul’s death taught me that a suffering and physically imperfect life is no less worthy, a lesson I suspect Harris inherently knows.
For despite his opinion that abortion is the “moral” solution for expectant parents of a child with Down syndrome, Harris said that if faced with the same decision, he would spurn his own advice and choose life.
I can’t think of a more moral or humane choice.
Earlier posts start here: Dad responds to UNC prof’s remark about Down syndrome