The simple guarantees of LIFE, LIBERTY, and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS at least somewhat provide the veneer of concern about each child that is born inside US hospitals. When something atypical is identified at birth, medical professionals swarm, care is provided, and for the most part, our children are still offered the best possible shot at life.
A recent viral story reminds us that this is not the case everywhere in the world.
New father, Samuel Forrest of Auckland, New Zealand received the shock of his life on January 21, 2015 when his wife gave birth in Armenia to a beautiful baby boy with Down Syndrome. Armenia, the home country of Forrest's wife, apparently espouses an antiquated mentality towards such children. The doctors informed the parents that they did not need to "keep" their baby. When the father, Samuel, received his son with joy and went to speak to his wife, she gave him an ultimatum -- either abandon their baby son, Leo, or she would divorce him.
|Image courtesy of Jozef Polc via 123rf.com|
While this story can't help but bring shock to the America psyche, it evokes 2 strong thoughts in me:
- How aware are we that babies around the world are treated as disposable commodities in cultures that are different from ours? Numerous African countries, such as Nigeria, treat children with disabilities as if they are a curse. Parents are known to take disabled children to the woods and abandon them, to be eaten by wild animals or to die by cruel starvation. In China, where births are limited by the government, parents are driven to raise that one perfect child who will care for them in their old age. Abandonment in this nation is common. And our family personally knows a child in India whose father walked away from the family because his hemophilia was too much of a financial burden. Now the mother works 2 or 3 jobs just to provide for their meager existence in a tiny apartment. We need to be aware of these stories, not taking for granted the incredible hope and health care we enjoy in America. It's important for us to remember Jesus' words, "To whom much is given, much will be expected." Passing on the blessing by donating surplus medical supplies and advocating for others around the world are our mandate.
- If we are repulsed by the notion of a woman abandoning her newborn baby with Down Syndrome, we must ask ourselves, how that is any different than the mother who would opt for terminating a pregnancy where the baby receives the same diagnosis? It is estimated that 90% of all babies who are prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome in America are aborted. The number of children with this diagnosis is actually shrinking as a percentage of our population at a time where their ability to live a full, happy, productive life is greater than ever. We have to ask ourselves how we can morally square that sort of crime against humanity while we rush to donate dollars to a father like Samuel Forrest? Rather incongruent, isn't it?
Since the day my son was born, I have faced the painful truth that there are bioethicists (Peter Singer comes to mind immediately) who would say that he has no right to be alive because of his hemophilia. He monopolizes too many medical resources and dollars from the general population. His need for critical medical care is far too great. To this day, advocacy organizations like the National Hemophilia Foundation support a "woman's right to choose," explaining to genetic carriers of the disorder how they can determine prenatally if their child has hemophilia. How is that advocacy? How can we convey the message that the lives of people with bleeding disorders have intrinsic value when we are so ready and willing to terminate those same lives before they ever have a chance?
This is our reality raising children with chronic diagnoses, special needs or disabilities. It is extremely difficult to raise our sons and daughters with the self-confidence and belief that they have infinite worth in Christ when the world tells them they would be better off dead. Nevertheless, this ought to compel us to teach our children who are cognitively able to be a voice for the voiceless, such as little Leo Forrest. Our kids have a unique platform to tell the world about the beauty of their own lives. It is a moral imperative for them to remind the world that we would be a darker place without people like Tim Harris, or Holbrook Kohrt, or Daryl Hannah. So teach them well, parents!
And NEVER stop telling the stories of people like little Leo Forrest, image-bearer of the One True King.
~ Barb Dittrich