As the father of an autistic son, who, with his brother and sister, is the light of the lives of myself and my wife, the struggle for the right to life of the unborn is a personal battle. The contempt shown for innocent human life by abortion is magnified when the fact that a child in the womb is less than perfect is introduced into the mix. People like my son, who lights up any room when he smiles, who is as agile and nimble as a cat in her prime, and who likes to cook with the microwave, would be regarded by those who prize abortion as prime candidates for elimination if their condition could be detected in the womb. George Will has a moving column about his son Jon who has just turned 40.
Jon was born just 19 years after James Watson and Francis Crick published their discoveries concerning the structure of DNA, discoveries that would enhance understanding of the structure of Jon, whose every cell is imprinted with Down syndrome. Jon was born just as prenatal genetic testing, which can detect Down syndrome, was becoming common. And Jon was born eight months before Roe v. Wade inaugurated this era of the casual destruction of pre-born babies.
This era has coincided, not just coincidentally, with the full, garish flowering of the baby boomers’ vast sense of entitlement, which encompasses an entitlement to exemption from nature’s mishaps, and to a perfect baby. So today science enables what the ethos ratifies, the choice of killing children with Down syndrome before birth. That is what happens to 90 percent of those whose parents receive a Down syndrome diagnosis through prenatal testing.
Which is unfortunate, and not just for them. Judging by Jon, the world would be improved by more people with Down syndrome, who are quite nice, as humans go. It is said we are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and remain greedy. People with Down syndrome must remain brave in order to navigate society’s complexities. They have no choice but to be trusting because, with limited understanding, and limited abilities to communicate misunderstanding, they, like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” always depend on the kindness of strangers. Judging by Jon’s experience, they almost always receive it.