Doctors recommend that all pregnant women be offered screening for Down syndrome, and about half of women undergo the tests. But the current tests often produce confusing, ambiguous results, unnecessarily alarming couples or falsely reassuring them. The new tests are designed to offer more definitive results early in the pregnancy.I'm sure that by reducing this discussion to simply a matter of a woman's right to choose, I'll be accused by some of advocating for the abortion of fetuses with Down's Syndrome, so let me put that to rest right now. I'm not. I'm advocating for the ability of pregnant women to make informed decisions about their reproductive health and nothing more. It doesn't make one bit of difference to me whether a woman chooses to abort a pregnancy because the child is going to be developmentally challenged, because she's economically unable to take care of even a healthy child , or because she's just decided that this isn't the time for her to have a child. Hell, if she just wants to do it for fun, that's her call--for me, being pro-choice means that individual women get to choose what they do with their bodies, even if it's something that would make me cringe. Genitalia piercing makes me cringe too, in a completely different way, but I don't think we should outlaw that either.
But with the first new approach due to become available this spring, the tests are renewing questions about why regulators do not require such innovations to be proved reliable before being offered to the public.
Abortion opponents, meanwhile, fear that the technology may prompt more couples to terminate pregnancies. And advocates for the disabled, noting that couples are often poorly informed about the syndrome, worry that more of them may feel pressured to abort. They also fear a dwindling number of those born with the condition, along with the prospect of increased discrimination against them and their families.
But it's a situation like the one mentioned in this article that makes choice that much more important. Children are, at the best of times, a handful, even if you have access to plenty of resources. Special needs children are that much more of a handful, and not everyone can handle the challenges that come along with them. And if a woman looks at her situation and says to herself that she can't handle the added burden of a special needs child, who the hell am I to suggest that she has a duty to do so?
I hope that in the near future, medical technology will progress to the point where we can treat fetuses in the womb, where women aren't left with the crappy dichotomy of abortion versus special needs child. But right now, that's often the situation for women facing this reality, which is why it's important to leave this decision in the hands of the people facing the majority of the burden.