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June 2010

Other sports have made strides, but baseball is still America’s favorite pastime.  Whether for the endless strategizing, the thrill of a homer, or just the peanuts and crackerjack, the game attracts fans by the millions.  We’ve passed our love for it down the generations.  Kids get balls, bats, and gloves just as soon as they can hold them.

Baseball is a team game, and that means picking sides.  In our neighborhood, choosing teammates was a ritual.  The two best players would work their hands to the knob of a bat to determine who picked first.  Talent meant everything.  The system had nowhere to go but down to that last, worst kid.  Truth be told, no one wanted him.  He was sure to strike out with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

In third grade, we learned about a selection process tougher than ours.  In the Greek city-state Sparta, the elders inspected all the newborn children.  Those deemed unfit were taken away and left to die.  It was the mark of an uncivilized society, and none of us was unhappy to learn that Sparta fell.  Almost 3000 years after Sparta, we are returning to Sparta’s ways.  We’re more highbrow perhaps, but every bit as barbaric.

We don’t see many Down syndrome children anymore.  The disorder hasn’t been cured.  It is being eliminated another way: abortion.  About 80-90% of all Down syndrome babies are killed before birth.  Eugenics was an unspoken agenda behind Roe v. Wade.  Last summer pro-abortion Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remarked about a concern at the time of Roe over the “growth of populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”   Certainly blacks, aborted at alarmingly disproportionate rates, have felt the cruel reality of those words.  But so have the disabled, and not just those with Down syndrome.  Unborn babies with spina bifida, Tay-Sachs, and even deafness, blindness, dwarfism, cleft palates, and defective limbs are never given a chance.

With improved methods of genetic screening, the eugenics problem is getting worse.  Unborn babies considered as potential carriers of disease or disabilities are being aborted just because they might develop problems later in life.  Doctors afraid of lawsuits by parents for “wrongful birth” or by the children themselves for “wrongful life” push for abortion or leave parents uneducated about the true odds of potential problems.  Fear trumps life.  Sometimes the aborted dead show no signs of problems.

The increased availability of pre-natal screening, coupled with the financial costs of caring for the disabled, has even led to calls for a duty to die.  Women refusing to abort disabled children are accused of being selfish.  “Why should taxpayers foot the bill for a disabled child” is the reaction of others.  The calls for abortion will become louder under our new health care system.  Washington’s medical bureaucrats will encourage, maybe even mandate, pre-natal screening.  When risks are identified, the system will threaten to deny insurance coverage.  Many will succumb to the financial pressures.

Those favoring the abortion of the disabled argue that it’s all about quality of life.  Princeton professor Peter Singer once said that when the death of a disabled infant leads to the birth of a healthy infant, there is a net gain. Abortion advocate Joyce Arthur claims that the planned birth of a disabled child is “child abuse” and even that an unborn has “a right not to be born.”   Just think about that one!  But it all begs a question.  If we are God’s greatest creations, did He make a mistake in creating the disabled?

The answer: only if we can’t see beyond our own noses.  Disabled people enjoy life.  They just have conditions affecting certain physical or mental abilities, as do we all.  And they understand that true happiness does not depend on those conditions.  Contrast the joy of a Down syndrome child with the poor attitudes of healthy people so unwilling to find purpose and beauty in life.  Like the rest of us, the disabled simply want to be judged by who they are as people, not by their disabilities.

Truth be told, all that quality-of-life talk is about our quality of life, not theirs. They can’t keep up with us, and we can’t relate to them.  They weigh us down.  Joyce Arthur claims that a woman forced to care for a disabled child loses her own autonomy.  Men have the same thoughts about themselves.  We don’t want the disabled on our team.

That’s a shame because they offer us precious gifts. They give us their disabilities.  Watching the blind negotiate a sidewalk gives us perspective about our own problems. Seeing a brain damaged person struggle to learn gives us a lesson in courage and perseverance. The disabled often inspire us in many ways.  They also give us their neediness.  The disabled teach us that life is about forgetting ourselves in the service of others.  Raising a disabled child can be very difficult. It requires struggle and sacrifice.  But adversity is the very gift God uses to build our trust in His ways.  For those who do, He gives strength and every other necessity.  And He will help all of us see the wondrous people that He packaged in those not-so-perfect frames.

Agnes Marshall’s ten-year old daughter was born with most of her brain missing.  But Agnes only sees the loving way Rachel looks at her.  Agnes “wouldn’t want to change her in any way.  In fact, I’d have 10 of her.”

Just when you think God is sure to strike out, He hits a grand slam.

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2010.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Comments?  Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/

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