If a child is to be born with this severe disability, is it right to abort the birth?

Take this hypothetical situation:

The doctor has just informed you that you or your partner is pregnant. There’s a catch however - the doctor is 90% sure that your child will be born with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. Here is a short list of problems which are associated with most muscular dystrophies, taken from mdausa.org:

That isn’t counting the emotional problems a person might face. In other words, people with the disease have a very tough, often times short, life. However, with today’s advanced medical equipment, quality of life can be high and a good amount of day-to-day independent autonomy can be reached.

Knowing that, would you choose to abort the birth? Keep in mind that there is a 10% chance that the child will not be afflicted. Also, if you do abort it, there’s a good chance your next child will be born perfectly fine.

What would be your reasons for deciding? Would you decide a certain way for the sake of the child, yourself, or both?

I’m going to hold back my opinion until the discussion gets rolling.

  • Mike

I’d abort. Life is hard enough without having to contend with catastrophic disabilities. It isn’t fair to the parents or the child (or the siblings). I know some people believe that the quality of life can be “good enough”, but…“good enough” isn’t good enough. You will be dependent in some way for your entire life. I worked with a woman who had a more mild form of the disease. She had constand tremors, extreme difficulty walking, extreme difficulty with personal hygiene, and her speech was almost unintelligible. This would not be a life I would want to force upon anyone.

Very good question. A toughie.

I am fairly liberal on most things, but oddly not on abortion. My own little turning point came when I visited the Holocaust Memorial and Museum. Hitler started by killing the mentally and physically defective. We all know where this line of reasoning went.

So no, physically and mentally challenged people are people. I like people. I rarely am for killing them.

(Isn’t there a group called Not Dead Yet? It is made up of disabled people who object to the idea of killing the deformed.)

I’m politically pro-life. It’s not a big surprise, then, that I’m personally pro-life as well.

Mrs. Moto and I have hashed this out, in her last pregnancy with our twins and in her current one. We even decided against amniocentesis, because there is a slight risk to the baby, and any birth defects discovered wouldn’t cause us to abort the pregnancy anyway.

Baby Number 3 is due in November. Everything looks good, so far in the ultrasounds. Wish us luck.

Abortion is cruel and crude. I would not encourage my wife to get an abortion unless the baby was basically 100% guaranteed not to be viable or conscious (as in that one condition when the baby just doesn’t have a cerebrum).

In my own mystical way, I believe that the disabled play an important role in our lives. You gave an extreme case here, but many people abort for minor cosmetic defeciencies (hare lip, etc.). IMO, this is evil.

I couldn’t possibly answer the question without actually being in the situation for real, for myself (and very thankfully, that isn’t going to happen now, as I will not be having more children); we all have lofty ideals; it is typically much easier to impose them on others than live up to them for yourself.

Whatever informed, considered choice the couple make in this particular situation is the right one (or at least cannot properly be called ‘wrong’) ; nobody can tell them that they must burden themselves with the upbringing of a severely disabled child. Nobody can tell them that they shouldn’t.

Really? cite? (it’s my first cite request :slight_smile: )

Mangetout pretty much took the words out of my mouth. It has to be a decision of the couple. No one else should be involved.

No, nobody can tell you what to do. Still, those with a strong moral sense lean very heavily to taking the least harmful option. Faced with such a choice I think I would choose to let the child live.

my pregnat wife and I have just been discussing this - we’d recently been for the SU scan where they measure the ridge at the back of the neck as a first test for Down’s Syndrome. We’re agreed that, if positive and subsequent tests affirmed it, we’d abort. No quibbles on either side.

So the answer is yes, I’d do the same in your hypothetical. 10% odds are not good enough - It’d take more like 99% the other way, I think…

One of my best friends is paralyzed from the neck down from a birth defect, but she is one of the most well adjusted, intelligent (she is taking the bar exam now), active, happiest, and friendly people I have ever met. I’ve spent a lot of time around her and others in the Disabled Students Program, and while there are some poorly adjusted people, most of them are normal people.

Based on my experiences with people with severe disabilities, I couldn’t justify losing a child like that.

When my wife was pregnant, we had amniocenteses done. Our expectation was that we would abort if a defect of this magnitude (we were thinking primarily of Downs syndrome, actually) was detected.


That only holds water if you believe that an unborn embryo is a person, which I don’t. I have no interest in murdering people. We’re talking about ending a pregnancy before it evolves into a born human being.

If you are against abortion, why would you abort a baby that isn’t going to live anyway? Why not just let nature take its course?

Well, no a fetus is not a person, yet.

Still, the idea that there is such a thing as ‘Life unworthy of life’ is darn creepy if said with a thick German accent. As I said, I would prefer to not go down the 1933 road.

And here was me thinking I had just such a strong moral sense; the question, I suppose, is indeed about the greater harm, but your first post was about people being killed, which I’m not sure can be argued to be strictly the case with abortion.

As would most of us, I suspect, but I don’t think this situation is really very comparable.

Not being in this situation, it’s hard to say what I’d do, but I know a woman in her mid-forties, pregnant with her second child, which has both trisomy 21 and trisomy 13. Her 21 year old son was born with MS and she’s got an adopted daughter with Fetal Alcohol syndrome and an adopted son with ADHD. Getting pregnant was a complete accident. She thought she was going through menopause but it turned out she was pregnant instead. Her health is not that good normally, and this pregnancy is literally tearing her to pieces. She’s been in the hospital numerous times, trying to stave off an early delivery. In her circumstances, I believe I’d get an abortion. There’s about a 50% chance the delivery can be postponed long enough for the infant to be viable, but even if the baby does survive birth, she wouldn’t be expected to survive much past her first year of life. The family is already being drained substantially, emotionally, mentally, and financially by the pregnancy. I imagine it will be even more so after the birth.

of course it’s ok to abort…and even if the fetus is 100% healthy, it’s still ok to abort. A fetus is not a person. Anthropomorphizing a clot of fetal tissue does not actually imbue it with personhood, any more than anthropomorphizing a pet or a stuffed animal.

Aeschines, i would like to see a cite that anyone is aborting pregnancies because of a harelip on the fetus.

I am not willing to compare abortion to the holocaust. Still, as I said, my visit to the Holocaust M&M was a real life-changing experience.

Further, the ‘Slippery Slope’ argument I make here is inherently weak. All of morality is choosing the least bad of a number of options. There are times and places when abortion (or prohibiting abortion) is right.

I myself could answer the question the other way depending on the facts, the weather and perhaps the phase of the moon. As I said, a very tough question.

Still, I for one and spring-loaded in giving the child the chance to live. I know disabled people. I like them. I would not want to live in a world without them.