Human embryo inside body

If you knew during pregnancy your child would be born with at least one mental or physical disability, what would you do?

March 25, 2018
  • Nothing. I’d have the baby as scheduled
  • I’d allow the birth if the disability wouldn’t compromise the overall health of my child
  • I’d want an abortion
  • I’d let my partner make the decision
  • I’m not sure

The question of what one might do if they knew their unborn child would have a disability is deeply personal and multifaceted. For many, it’s a blend of cultural, moral, emotional, and practical considerations. In the U.S., where personal freedom and choice are paramount, this question presents a maze of potential answers.

1. “Nothing. I’d have the baby as scheduled.”

silhouette of a pregnant woman against a sunset

There’s a long-standing ethos in many cultures and religions that embraces life in all its forms. For many people, having a child with a disability is viewed not as a challenge, but as a unique opportunity. These individuals often believe that every life is valuable and purposeful, regardless of the challenges that come with it.

A survey showed that a significant portion of parents with children with disabilities believe their lives have been enriched by their child’s presence. Some find unparalleled joy in small achievements, a sense of purpose in caregiving, and even a deeper understanding of life and love.

You might recall the movie “Forrest Gump,” where the titular character, despite his intellectual and physical challenges, impacts many lives positively and leads a fulfilling life. Such narratives resonate with people who believe in the inherent value of every life.

2. “I’d allow the birth if the disability wouldn’t compromise the overall health of my child.”

silhouette of a pregnant woman against a sunset

The health and well-being of the child is a paramount concern for many parents. They might feel equipped to handle certain disabilities but not others. For some, the idea of bringing a child into the world who might experience severe pain, suffering, or a significantly shortened lifespan feels like an insurmountable challenge.

The advancement of medical science has allowed for more detailed prenatal diagnoses. Now, potential parents can gain insight into the nature and severity of many disabilities. While this knowledge can be empowering, it also presents a challenging decision. For those who choose this option, the question is not about the presence of a disability, but about its potential impact on the child’s quality of life.

3. “I’d want an abortion.”

For some, the idea of raising a child with a disability feels beyond their capabilities, whether emotionally, financially, or physically. A curious fact to consider is that the cost of raising a child with severe disabilities can be significantly higher than that of a typically developing child. This isn’t just a reflection of medical costs, but also therapy, educational support, and other unique needs.

There are also individuals who have firsthand experience with disability, either personally or within their families. Their decisions might be influenced by this experience, whether it’s a desire to avoid perceived challenges or a deep-seated fear based on past struggles.

Remember the poignant scene in the movie “The Other Sister,” where the character, played by Juliette Lewis, grapples with her intellectual disability while trying to find love and independence? For some, the thought of their child facing such challenges can be overwhelming.

4. “I’d let my partner make the decision.”

hands holding ultrasound image projection

Pregnancy and child-rearing are shared responsibilities. Some individuals might feel that their partner has a better perspective or is better equipped to make such a decision. Trusting a partner in this manner is a testament to the strength and depth of a relationship.

It’s also worth noting that men and women often perceive and process the idea of disability differently. A survey showed that, in some cases, women tend to be more pragmatic due to their role as primary caregivers, while men might be more optimistic or idealistic.

5. “I’m not sure.”

Indecision is a natural human response, especially when faced with profound, life-altering choices. For some, the variables are too many, the emotions too intense, or the implications too vast to come to a clear answer. They might need more time, more information, or more introspection.

It’s like the classic Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Sometimes, standing at the crossroads of a decision, it’s not easy to see the end of either path. But it’s okay to admit uncertainty and seek guidance, whether from professionals, loved ones, or one’s own intuition.

In Conclusion

The journey of parenthood is dotted with decisions, big and small. The question of how to proceed when faced with a prenatal diagnosis of a disability is among the most profound. It’s a blend of heart and mind, of practicality and emotion. Whatever path is chosen, it’s essential to remember that every decision is deeply personal and should be made with care, compassion, and a thorough understanding of the available options.

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