NRL News

Trapped in the ideology of “choice,” mother of child with Down syndrome struggles against the “sugar-coated” lie

by | Sep 30, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Hayley Goleniowska and her daughter Natalia.

Hayley Goleniowska and her daughter Natalia.

Hayley Goleniowska describes herself as “a Down’s syndrome advocate, writer, passionate speaker and a very ordinary parent.” But having read her piece in the UK edition of the Huffington Post, “The Disability Abortion Lie,” I believe she sells herself short.

Ms. Goleniowska is a representative of the pro-choice writer (“Who am I to judge another woman’s situation, to force anything upon them?”) who has seen through the lies women (indeed, all of us) are fed about children with a disability, most typically Down syndrome. As we shall see, ultimately her stance is incoherent.

She begins her essay with a four-part series of questions (remember, she is “pro-choice”):

Do women really have a choice whether to abort or not following an antenatal diagnosis of a disability?

Are we walking blindfold into a society where eugenics is gently presented, sugar-coated and unthinkingly accepted?

Are we fooling ourselves that we are exercising choice in our pregnancies, where actually choice, the choice to continue with certain pregnancies is being removed?

Are women given unbiased support to make informed choices about disability abortion?

She wants to locate herself between the “extremes”—pro-lifers being one of them—with “the experience of the common woman” [herself] which “lies somewhere in the vast stretch of thinking between the two extremes.” I don’t want to belabor the obvious—pro-lifers and pro-abortionists are not at the polar opposites; a more accurate comparison is between the sun and the moon—so I won’t.

Instead I will focus on what Goleniowska tells us she thought she knew, and the litany of pressures women face when a prenatal diagnosis reveals a baby has a disability—not to mention the lack of support (“Time and again women are being left unsupported at every step of the process”) which is often the case even after the child is born. (“How selfish” seems to be a common, if bizarre, criticism.)

And the unsubtle messages seemingly come from nearly everywhere and from almost everyone, as Goleniowska explains. She talks of “social constructs” and asks how and why she had subconsciously bought into the “subtext of the clichés that tripped off my tongue as so many prospective mothers? That a healthy baby is worth more than one with health needs, or who simply looks and learns a little differently?”

Later, “having analysed the root of my early feelings,” Goleniowska says, “I see with absolute clarity the sugar-coated disability lie that we are all spoon fed, and I fear a somewhat sinister and subtle guiding of women by some medical professionals to terminate. How could I have made a life-and-death decision back then, based on what I thought I knew, but was utterly ignorant of?“

We learn of the specter of eugenics—which is what aborting a baby because he or she is imperfect is. In Great Britain, ostensibly the cutoff point is 24 weeks, unless the baby has some very ill-defined disability. Then they can be aborted however late in pregnancy. And the reasons are not an “incompatibility” with life but “talipes [a club foot] and cleft lip and palate.”

She has come to realize that “Those who choose to continue a pregnancy of a baby with Trisomy 21 are often treated with less respect than those who opt for a termination.” (What does a “pro-choicer” do with that? Isn’t “choice” suppose to be neutral—abort or not abort?).

Finally Goleniowska knows there are enormous questions raised when we abort 9 in 10 babies diagnosed with Down syndrome:

How do I explain to my daughter, when she is a grown woman herself, why there are so few adults around her with DS?

How do I explain the excited newspaper headlines that hail the new sensitive screening tests as enabling their eradication?

How do I make her believe that her voice counts the same as any other woman’s, that her life is worth every bit the same as the next?

How do I make society see that she has the same rights to work, a relationship, hobbies, loves and vices as the rest of us?

That she is not cute, not simply a two dimensional musical and loving caricature, that she is never a burden, that she contributes more than she requires, that she is a multi-faceted woman.

How will I do all of that when the words and actions of so many unthinkingly assume that she is not?

Click here to read the September issue of
National Right to Life News,
the “pro-life newspaper of record.”

It is a terrific essay. But there are blind spots.

Goleniowska writes of how “In the West we pride ourselves on our equality laws, those that give each individual the same rights, whatever their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability.” But consider the very next sentence.

“Yet we are shouting loud and clear to adults with disabilities that they are worth a little bit less with our abortion laws, and very few of us are questioning that.”

She misses how rampant abortion can turn otherwise thoughtful people into men and women who can’t believe that someone would have a child with Down syndrome when they don’t have to. The “right” to abortion has come perilously close to an obligation to have an abortion when the baby is not “perfect.”

Goleniowska tells us, “Would I recommend terminating a much wanted baby simply because they had an extra chromosome? Absolutely not.” But what if the baby wasn’t a “much wanted” baby to begin with?

How ironic that she writes about having the right to decide whether to abort taken away by societal/cultural pressures saying she should abort. But is Goleniowska really saying it would be okay to abort any child with a disability–provided the deck was not stacked against them—if their mom “freely” chose to take their life?

This is the corner into which “choice” paints people who understand that perfection ought not to be the bar we need to hurtle before we are allowed to be born but can’t “impose” that on anyone else.

Categories: Down Syndrome