What’s creepy isn’t that parents want a child they can relate to, what’s creepy is that we can now decide whether a person lives or dies before birth.
I went to a public high school with a sizable deaf minority: about one in 11 kids was somewhere from hard of hearing to absolutely deaf. There was a wing of the school for intense, deaf-specific classes and therapy for those who needed it. There were interpreters for those who were mainstreamed. It was probably more humane than many situations in that children where accomodated by ability and desire to mainstream.
One girl was the “poster girl” for the program - although not by her own intention. She took all mainstream classes, with interpreters as needed. She tutored other deaf kids and and volunteered as an interpretor for the deaf-and-blind. She took AP courses, was a member of the national honor society, maintained a 4.0 grade average and played varsity soccer and track-and-field. She did not speak foreign languages but she was fluent reading and writing Spanish and German, and had taken Latin as well. Her speech was difficult to understand - she had no hearing left at all - but she could communicate when out and about in the world.
When she left high school it was straight to Gaulledet for her. The hearing school counselors were devasted - “Why would you want to go to a school for the deaf when you could go to any school in the country?”
Her answer? “I’m tired of struggling. I want to go somewhere where I fit in and they sign my language.” ALL of us who were her friends - both deaf and hearing - were 100% behind her decision. Because we saw how hard she struggled and how the adults saw her as a freak, the “Deaf Girl Who Overcame Deafness”. How stupid - you can’t “overcome” something like that, you just learn to adapt as best you can. It happened that she was very good at adapting.
Many parents want their child to be perfect - but what if the child is not? What does it say when society deems it OK to “flush and start over” for a defect? Particularly when, as in the case of deafness, the defect may make live harder but those who have the condition find their lives can be wonderful, meaningful, and well worth living? What does it say to a child with such a condition the first time they encounter the opinion “I’d rather be dead than that way”? Or - “I’d rather kill my child than have them that way”?
And what does it say to those who become deaf later in life? Knowing that there IS a Deaf community out there, that I could still have a wonderful life and socialize with others, made the idea of deafness much less frightening to me. Does that mean I would CHOOSE to be deaf? No, of course not - but it could happen, and if it did, I know I could adapt.
Does that mean we should NEVER eliminate genetic defects, or abort a fetus? Not necessarially – there are some things that prevent all hope of a normal life. I don’t see much point, for instance, in bringing to term a baby with no developed brain. But we shouldn’t be too ready to dispose of people with ANY defect or imperfection.
And keep in mind that some deaf parents have had their hearing children taken from them, on theory that while they’re perfectly acceptable to raise a deaf child they are somehow inadequate to raise a hearing child. When both parents are deaf they DO have to make concessions to a hearing child in the same way hearing parents have to make adjustments for a deaf child. There are concerns about language acquisition. How do you communicate with a hearing child’s teachers at the hearing school? How do you know a hearing teen isn’t mixed up with a bad crowd? These two women are hardly the first deaf parents to be relieved at a child’s deafness - just more open about than usual.
There is also historical baggage. We would react with horror at the idea of hearing children sitting in a school room with gags in their mouths, but historically deaf children, in an attempt to discourage signing and encourage vocal communication, have had their hands tied in classrooms, which is much the same thing as gagging someone who can hear. It’s hardly any wonder that some of the Deaf are distrustful or even hostile towards the hearing world?
Ask yourself, if you found out 3 months into a pregnancy that your child would be born profoundly deaf, what would your reaction be? Would you consider abortion? Would you make the best of it? Would you want to live in a society where someone other than you could determine whether or not you have children based on the odds of you producing a less than perfect child?