By Jonathan David Faulkner
The disabled community has been in the news quite a bit recently, more so than normal. Not because the disabled community makes up half the police deaths every year but because France and Iceland have almost eradicated their Down-Syndrome Community through the practice of automatically aborting any baby that has an extra Chromosome. The Washington Post has called this a “Moral Crisis” because it fits the parameters for a Genocide because it targets a group of people based on something distinct to that group. I think it would be appropriate to call it a Genocide because it does require one who sees himself as normal, in this case the non-downs individual – to make a judgment about another group and assign them sub-human status. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of Abortion, targeting a group because you have determined they are less than you is wrong.
The argument hinges on what they call “The Quality of Life.” Meaning, they have determined that a person with any sort of cognitive or mental disability – or even disabilities in general – somehow has a lower quality of life and therefore we should be merciful and spare them of that quality of life. This reasoning is not dissimilar to the ideology of Margret Sanger who called for the elimination of the poor through abortion, birth control and sterilization. She determined that the life of the poor – specifically blacks – was lower than that of their white counterparts and should therefore be exterminated so they might be alleviated of their poverty by any means necessary. The initiated man will acknowledge how evil Sangers mindset is because it claims an entire people group are less than another and should be eliminated because of it. This kind of thinking should, in all forms be rejected, but it is being used again to justify the elimination of another group of people and this time it is not being stopped.
Iceland has all but eliminated its Downs population and it is believed that in France no one under the age of 30 has the extra-chromosome. To say that this is limited to these two nations is foolish, but they have been the most extreme in their pursuit of aborting those with Downs. Based on the logic that someone with Downs lives less of a life or has a lower quality of life than someone without. Not that we in America are any better, we still consider the life of a Downs child or someone with an ASD less than that of what we have determined to be “normal.” Though recent events, such as Toys ‘R’ Us initiating a quiet hour so that people with Autism can shop there without the overwhelming sensory information that can come with a store setting. Or Osh Kosh choosing a young child with Down Syndrome to model their fall child’s clothing line.
Of course, one does not have to point out the hypocrisy of those who insist on life being a totally subjective experience claiming that – objectively – someone’s life is lower quality because of a disability. I myself have had to face a similar sentiment in life being told that; because I am legally blind: “Your life will not amount to anything.” Which, though I have not actually heard since I was a kid in school, is sometimes unintentionally re-stated by popular narratives about the disabled. Again, this is people who repeatedly claim that experience is subjective determining objectively that the life of a disabled person is somehow less than theirs because they, themselves are the subjective criteria for normal.
I have to state again how dangerous and damaging this has been in history, especially in the history of America. The idea of another being less because of a difference was used to justify slavery, internments and many other devastating events that should have been denounced and rebuked by the church based simply on the Biblical Doctrine of the Imgao Dei. Unfortunately; it was this doctrine; that God imprinted upon us and made us in His image at creation and that this image is not marred by sin because it is directly connected and comes directed from God. Has been twisted and taken out of the hands of God and put into the hands of man and used to oppress and denigrate entire groups of people.
These actions are shameful and will weigh on the conscious of those who perpetrate them. The French’s response has been to ban any advertising that positively portrays Downs and ASD Children or any public discourse that might cause the mothers to feel guilt or shame for abortion that ended the life inside them. The problem is government cannot determine to keep one free of shame and guilt. As more and more studies show depression as a side-affect of abortion and as I talk to more and more pastors I hear more and more testimonies about the effects of an abortion. Even from men who dropped girlfriends and wives off at clinics there is often a feeling of shame and guilt associated with the act itself. Popular pro-Abortionists have even written pieces acknowledging that the baby they are carrying is in fact a living being. But we have determined that a child with a disability is going to have less of a life, or a lower quality of life, than the “normal” person. Even when a child is birthed who may have autism we do not get our children tested because we do not want the “Stigma” of our child having a disability.
But what does the disabled community think? Do we consider our quality of life lower because of our disabilities? Does the man with Autism or the Woman with Down-Syndrome consider her life less worth living because they have a disability? Rarely have I met a person with a disability that did not think their life was less full or its quality was less than another because of their disability. In fact, in relation to Down-Syndrome I have never met someone who does not love life. I am sure they exist, but I have not met someone.
As a person with a visual disability I do not think my own quality of life is any less than another, on the contrary, I think my life is very full and I am blessed to be where I am and with the people who I love and who love me. I am contented with life and do not feel marginalized or oppressed in anyway. My only wish is that the Church would talk more about how we reach out to the disabled community because while we are generally happy with our own selves, there has been a great deal of hurt and usury faced by those with disabilities. For example; it does hurt when a group of people that claim to speak for the voices of all actively support the abortion of a person with a disability because the “Quality of Life” is somehow less than theirs.
If all life is valuable, how do we determine which life is more valuable than another? Does a life matter more if it has all the “normal” faculties or doesn’t interfere with the independence of another? Who gets to determine the value of a persons life? Who gets to determine the quality of a person’s life? Isn’t this playing god? Holding ourselves up as the standard for being and for normalcy over what we are told my scripture should be the standard.
If all mankind if created in the image of God and if the church truly affirms this than shouldn’t we be against anything that distorts or belittle that image? That is not limited to the disabled community. But includes any group that has been considered “less” for whatever reason over the course of human history, should we not be able to say when confronted that “This was a mistake.”
I am not advocating here for the tactics of the current Social Justice Movement that more-often fights injustice with more injustice. I am talking about seeking true and genuine justice that stems from a God imputed Righteousness and which builds up both the oppressed and the oppressor. Moving the oppressed out of oppression and seeking life transformation in the oppressor so that the two parties might be reconciled to one another.
See, as a person with a disability I do not think I need to be out marching in the street or having someone march for me. But I do think that there are people in the disabled community who have a lot to contribute but are ignored simply because they are disabled or stigmatized or outside of our view of normal.
This attitude denies us the chance to learn and grow in community with one-another and most importantly with God. The one who really makes life worth living and who has determined for us as the church a greater quality of life than we can ever imagine on Earth.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry