Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Search for A Perfect Baby in an Imperfect World

Perfect Baby Syndrome
by Gina R. Dalfonzo
Bill and Emma Keller had a terrible decision to make. The tests showed something was wrong with their unborn child. He wasn’t growing properly, and it appeared his organs weren’t developing well.
Bill and Emma were torn over what to do. But Emma’s obstetrician knew. “We know you can get pregnant easily,” she told Emma. “Why risk an unhappy outcome?” She suggested an abortion. Other doctors they consulted also expected them to abort.

Eliminating problems
The remarkable unanimity of the Kellers’ physicians demonstrates a subtle but important shift in the way our society thinks about those with disabilities. As technology improves, more and more women will be able to find out whether their unborn children have abnormalities.

Our culture has bought into the bizarre idea that the best way to eliminate certain illnesses is simply to eliminate people who are ill before they have a chance to be born. It’s like a passage out of Madeleine L’Engle’s famous novel A Wrinkle in Time, where three children discover a planet that has “conquered all illness, all deformity,” because they have decided that “it is so much kinder simply to annihilate anyone who is ill.”

Picking and choosing

But we’ve gone even further in our quest for perfection. New techniques enable couples to choose the sex of their children — and if the procedure accidentally produces the wrong gender, the parents can eliminate the results and start again. Genetic engineering is rapidly advancing so parents will be able to create stronger, smarter, better-looking babies, raising the possibility of a world where anyone who hasn’t been artificially enhanced is seen as inferior.

How have we reached the stage where such manipulation — and destruction — have become viable options for parents? Its roots go back to Roe v. Wade, which changed the way many of us view our children and those with disabilities. The legal right to end the life of one’s unborn child transformed the parent-child relationship in ways the Supreme Court justices probably never anticipated.

In many ways, we now treat the unborn child more as a piece of property than as a sacred human life — a piece of property that must meet the buyer’s standard or be thrown away.

In an April 2004 article for The Weekly Standard, Gordon College professor Agnes Howard puts it this way: “Already we act as though what gives moral standing to pregnancy is the choosing of it, preferably in advance, if necessary after the fact, but always the conscious determination to continue rather than end it. . . . To universalize genetic diagnosis is to entrench even more deeply than we already have the idea that a baby becomes a baby only when we choose to grant that status — if and when it passes genetic muster.”

Sadly, the story of Bill and Emma Keller perfectly illustrates this attitude. For a long time, they held out hope that their unborn child, whom they called “Charlie,” might be normal. But as time went on, it became less and less likely. They lost hope that their child’s life would be worth living, or that his life would be worth their time and energy, not to mention the risk to Emma’s health.

“Facing the prospect of a greater heartbreak, watching a child die or suffer inconsolably, or exhausting the emotional resources needed for two other children, we decided to end it,” Bill Keller wrote in The New York Times. “The last thing Emma was aware of before surrendering to the anesthetic was Charlie kicking madly.”

According to the article, the Kellers still mourn the loss of Charlie. But they have since had a baby girl, who is — fortunately for her — normal.

The search for the perfect baby may sound harmless enough on the surface. But Charlie Keller is only one of its countless victims.
By destroying children like him; by forgetting the words of the One who said, “Whatever you did to the one of the least of these . . . you did to Me” — we may defeat certain diseases, but the price is our own moral and spiritual health.

Gina R. Dalfonzo is a writer for Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint program.

This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
Copyright © 2005 Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

H/T to Luke'smom6 over at Baby Center's Carrying Pregnancy to Term Despite Fatal Prenatal Diagnosis Board

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