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Suffer the Little Children

Genetic Testing and Lives Worth Living

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John Stonestreet

Imagine you and your spouse find out you’re expecting. Having experienced this moment a few times, I know there’s nothing quite like it. Your world changes, and within days, your child’s entire biography unfolds in your mind: her first steps, first words, kindergarten, little league, ballet, high school, college, and eventually a young adult who will make you insanely proud. It’s all so promising.

But for thousands of parents every year, that’s when the “bad news” comes.

You find out your child has been diagnosed in utero with a serious medical condition or disability. All of your dreams for her fall to pieces. As more conditions are identified by prenatal tests, the more parents there are that face this scenario.

Then the friendly suggestions begin: “No one would choose that kind of life.” “She’ll never be happy.” “No one would blame you for ending it.” For many parents, the suggestions turn to pressure: “It’s irresponsible.” “You’re creating a burden.” “You’re being selfish.”

Having talked with parents of children with disability, I can tell you this tragedy plays out all too often. The pressure to have “perfect” children is immense. And when the moment of decision comes, a shocking percentage of families go along with the culture—and end a life they’ve been told isn’t worth living.

This is why almost 90 percent of children diagnosed in the womb with Down syndrome are aborted. During an interview last year with Joni Eareckson Tada, she shared with me her alarm over what might happen if a prenatal test became available for autism, especially since 1 in 80 children are now diagnosed with it.

Neither autism nor Down syndrome are deadly, and we have overwhelming evidence that children born with these conditions can lead loving, fulfilling lives.

But the impulse to prevent “defective” children from being born targets more victims in our society than just the mentally challenged. Increasingly, genetic technology is allowing us to peer decades into a person’s future, diagnosing diseases which may not manifest or impair someone until well into adulthood or middle age.

Women who carry the BRCA2 mutation, the “breast cancer gene,” for example, may have their unborn daughters screened for the mutation. If they turn up positive, abortion may be on the table.

Then there’s cystic fibrosis, a so-far incurable lung condition whose victims commonly live into their thirties—go to college, get married, and on and on. But with prenatal testing now available for this disease, increasing numbers of children in utero with CF are aborted—one limited study showed as many as 16 out of 17!

In Montana, one couple recently received the green light from a federal judge to sue their doctors for the so-called “wrongful birth” of their daughter. The little girl was born with cystic fibrosis, and according the couple, should have been killed in the womb, and would have, if testing revealed her condition.

What we’re seeing is not isolated cases of moral failing. It’s a culture that values human life based on usefulness and perfection, and targets for extinction those deemed too weak, too expensive, or too inconvenient.

Newsletter_Gen_180x180_BAs embryologist and in-vitro pioneer Robert Edwards predicted chillingly in the late nineties, “Soon it will be a sin for parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of a genetic disease. We are entering a world,” he said, “where we have to consider the quality of our children.”

That, my friends, is frightening and appalling.

So let me give you a tip: If you want a perfect child, don’t get pregnant. Every single son of Adam and daughter of Eve (to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis) is broken in some respect. Some of us more than others. But we’re also made in the image of God, and so, as Lewis wrote elsewhere “you have never met a mere mortal.”

Who are we to judge whose life is worth living? The one true Judge has already spoken. And He said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.”

Further Reading and Information

BP-Takeaction_80113Suffer the Little Children: Genetic Testing and Lives Worth Living - Next Steps

This “eliminate the weak” is the thrust of the eugenics practice, and as John said, it feeds the culture of death that is alive and well in our culture. But we are all imperfect people, created in God’s image. It’s up to us to promote the Christian worldview that values all of life.

Check out the links below for helpful information, and also to link to websites for organizations like Joni and Friends that defend life, born and pre-born.

Articles:

Cystic Fibrosis: A Little-Known Front in the Pro-Life Battle
Steve Skojec | Catholicvote.org

My breast cancer mutation
Kate Follington | Salon.org | July 11, 2013

With embryo testing, we only hear about the happy endings
William Saletan | Slate | July 21, 2013

Faces Disappearing
Richard W. Sams II | The New Atlantis | Summer 2007

Parents who would have aborted daughter with cystic fibrosis sue: judge gives green light
Jean McCarthy | Lifesitenews.com | June 28, 2012

Websites:

Joni and Friends International Disability Center

Life Legal Defense Foundation

Americans United for Life


Comments:

Science Will Not Save Us
After thinking about this commentary for awhile, Mr. Stonestreet raises good points in spite of their counter cultural nature. We live in a time where people believe the lie that science will save us: the lie that humanity will learn how to systematically purge original sin and all of its consequences without God.

I sat through two religion classes taught by one of America's leading atheists: Hector Avalos. To be fair, he was one of my best professors and he worked hard to accurately represent different viewpoints without supposing his opinions. However, his own viewpoint that places medical advances on a pedestal without acknowledging absolute truths such as every human is an image bearer of God could lead to people with genetically inherited diseases like the genetic disease he was born with being murdered in utero.

I do not deny modern medicine's ability to delay death and cure diseases, nor do I advocate abstinence from modern medicine. However, medicine makes a terrible God. People will live, people will die, cursed by toil and things of earth poking and pricking us to a futile life with a futile death for a people futilely trying to live without God: a perfect curse.

We Christians believe that Jesus alone can redeem our lives with the sacrifice on the cross that His Father ordained. We only accomplish things by God's grace as extended with his personal presence in the Holy Spirit. We receive joy that God alone will completely heal all of creation: wolves and goats getting what they deserve as God's sheep get to go home.

Abortive murder may be legal with young parents handed over to their selfish desires; however, the fact remains that God will right the wrongs in the end. In the meantime, I will give money to clinics like Informed Choices of Iowa who actually do something to stop abortions instead of empty talk that has lost its flavor. In other words, I have repented of being Pro-Life.
I have a child with autism. Although I have my days when I despise dealing with autism, I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that it is part of what makes up my son. We are fortunate to be part of a church that accepts and loves on him. Had I had the opportunity to abort him and taken it, my family and my church would have missed out on a blessing.