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Abortion for fetal anomalies devalues people living with disabilities

by | Jun 12, 2024

By We Need a Law

While late-term abortion is rare in Canada, abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy because of the legal vacuum that is the status quo in Canada. This means that ultrasound technology, while a beautiful window into the womb, can also be used to instigate testing to target children who are deemed “incompatible with life.”

World News Group [WNG]  recently published an article questioning the allowance of abortion in cases of fetal anomalies. After receiving an unwelcome prenatal diagnosis from their doctor, some parents choose to end the child’s life rather than carry and care for a child with a disability. Often the decision to abort is made under pressure from doctors.

In the WNG article, journalist Leah Savas quotes Dr. Michael Egnor, who says that “Prenatal counseling should never be done by doctors who don’t take care of the children over their lifespan.” The director of the neurosurgery residency program at Stony Brook University in New York, Egnor is also affiliated with Be Not Afraid, an organization that offers support to families facing difficult prenatal diagnoses. He believes that doctors with experience in treating the condition in question are the ones who should be consulted by parents after a prenatal diagnosis, not an obstetrician with minimal experience caring for children after birth. “They don’t have any professional expertise in the child’s prognosis,” Egnor said. “They would just go by what they read in a textbook somewhere, which anybody could do.”

It is this limited perspective that we seek to change by supporting initiatives that would require doctors to give up to date information to parents receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for their child. Laws like this would introduce a mandatory waiting period before the doctor can suggest any treatment, since many quickly suggest an abortion while parents are still reeling from the unexpected news. Having good resources available to parents would allow them to connect with other families in similar circumstances. It would improve opportunities for them to feel supported and have the value and dignity of their child affirmed.

Our worth is not determined by our age or location, nor is it determined by our ability. There is no guarantee that our born children will not become disabled, through accident or disease, and we devalue all people living with different abilities if we say they are better off never born.

Every human life is precious, and worthy of protecting. Fetal anomalies should never be an acceptable reason to end the life of a child. Rather, each child should be loved well for as long as they live, even if that life is much shorter or more difficult than parents would have hoped.

For more on this topic, download our position paper Aborting Those Who Are Different.

Editor’s note. This appeared here and reposted with permission. “We Need a Law” is a Canadian grassroots campaign advocating for laws protecting pre-born children.