In The Court Of Public Opinion: She Wishes She’d Aborted Her Downs Syndrome Son

I read a story today about a lady who has a 47-year-old son with Downs Syndrome. In essence, though she declares her love for her son, she also publicly declares that she wishes that she had been given the option to abort him, that he had never been born:

“…while I do love my son, and am fiercely protective of him, I know our lives would have been happier and far less complicated if he had never been born. I do wish I’d had an abortion. I wish it every day. If he had not been born, I’d have probably gone on to have another baby, we would have had a normal family life and Andrew would have the comfort, rather than the responsibility, of a sibling, after we’re gone. Instead, Stephen – who struggles to speak and function in the modern world – has brought a great deal of stress and heartache into our lives. That is why I want to speak in support of the 92 per cent of women who choose to abort their babies after discovering they have Down’s Syndrome. Mothers like Suzanne Treussard who bravely told her story in the Daily Mail two weeks ago. Suzanne, who was offered a termination at 15 weeks, braved a backlash of criticism and vitriol from some readers. But I’d challenge any one of them to walk a mile in the shoes of mothers like me, saddled for life as I am, with a needy, difficult, exasperating child who will never grow up, before they judge us. They should experience how it feels to parent a grown man, who is no more able to care for himself than a toddler – and at a time of life when your children should, all things being equal, be taking care of you. They should know how it feels to live every single day under a crushing weight of guilt. They should know how it feels to watch Stephen’s constant suffering and witness the almost daily destruction wreaked on all our lives.’

The tone of the feedback (I haven’t read all of it) has, unsurprisingly, been universally vitriolic. Herman Cain, apparently a well-known Tea Party activist in The States, featured the story on a website he operates and though he acknowledged the trials and tribulations doubtless suffered by the lady and her husband, he poured scorn on her and he has been fully supported in the Court of Public Opinion.

There are 2 parts to my response:

1) What she is saying is appalling. I’m sure that giving birth to a child with Downs must be very difficult on so many levels but I’d have thought that maternal instincts would kick in, that a mother’s love for her child would be the power and give the mother the strength to overcome the difficulties. Heck, all of us with children who do not have such conditions, we even pull our hair out at times when our babies scream at night for hours on end but we love them and that keep us right…for sure, the tests must be 100x tougher when the children have conditions like Downs but I’d have thought that the parental instincts and ‘natural’ love of parent for child still apply;

2) I think we need to know more about this situation, we need some context. I wouldn’t be surprised if what’s happening here is that the mother is having a mental breakdown, that she is collapsing under the strain, perhaps also due to worries about the future for her son after she and her husband have passed away, perhaps heavy heartache as she sees her son struggle. This woman is nearly 70 and it’s not difficult to understand how and why she might be breaking/collapsing and, in such circumstances, she is going to act out of character…her public proclamation seems to me to be more of a general cry, a reflection of exhaustion, worry, heartache and heartbreak, of a whirlwind of emotions which has exploded like dynamite. How many times do we say things and then say “Oh, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean it, I don’t know what got into me”? We might have to say that after no more than losing an hour’s sleep, seeing our football team lose a match or even thinking about the next game (Spurs v Newcastle today, 3:30pm kick off, Israel time). I know I’ve said it many, many times. I haven’t read all of the comments but I have read quite a few and all of them are ‘snap’ judgements made in response to the woman’s statement but the judgements have been made without the context, without knowing the woman’s state of mind nor her state of mental wellbeing. I’m surprised that none of the responses I read recognised the lack of context!