Who has the right to decide who should or should not inhabit the world?
When I was pregnant for the 1st time, I was asked during a routine ultrasound scan, if I wanted a nuchal fold measurement carried out. I was told it was a screening test which could be used together with maternal age to give a prediction of the likelihood of Down's Syndrome. I said yes, as it wasn't invasive and I thought it would be interesting to know the outcome. I was told that it was highly unlikely that my baby would have Down's Syndrome. I had already decided that I really wanted that baby no matter what, but I wonder how I would have felt if I'd been told the opposite?
When I was pregnant with Duncan and then Thomas, I had changed my views on a few things about the whole medical management of pregnancy, and though I still opted to have 2 ultrasound scans each time, I refused all other diagnostic or screening tests. Once again, I wanted the child I was carrying and I didn't need the pressure of these tests.
Prenatal testing puts pressure on parents, mothers in particular, to reject a specific child. This is a whole different issue from that facing women who are pregnant and do not want any child at that time. Woman are getting the message that they would be irresponsible to chose to give birth to a child they know to be disabled. These children are seen as 'drains on society' leading 'empty and pain-filled lives'. They are said to 'cost the state too much to care for them'. This is eugenics. It is anti-feminist.
Parents who have learned through prenatal testing that their child is disabled, often don't know enough about the rich and rewarding lives of people with the same disability as their fetus. They don't know the joy that child can bring. No-one knows what will become of any child, how they will turn out. I will admit that for now, raising my autistic son is more difficult at times than raising my non-autistic children. People may see me running around after him or dealing with him when he is frustrated and shouting or lashing out, and they might think, I would prefer not to have to deal with that. I want everyone to know that the joy hugely outweighs the sorrow. I would not want my boy to be anything other than who he is. The idea that he could be among the last generation of people who think in his own quirky way, just like the dwindling numbers of people with Down's Syndrome who make it, is scary and very saddening.
It is not fair for a fetus to have to pass a test just to be born. Our society gains from diversity in all its forms. Disabled people cannot feel accepted and supported while it's possible to stop children from being born just because they're like them. Society can change and offer more help to families living with disability. A change of attitude would be a good first step.
More information on the test is available here.