Washington - Back when I was a Catholic school student in the early '60s, the Dominican sisters seemed intent on telling us about some culture's ancient custom of leaving deformed children on the mountainside.
Most of my classmates were surprised and offended but then quickly moved on to studying Lord of the Flies and algebra. For me, however, the lesson stuck.
I was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita - Greek for "curved joints." My father and mother wept when they first saw me. Friends urged them to immediately commit me to the state mental institution - the 1949 version of the mountainside.
Thirty years later, my middle son, Jason, was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The bumbling, insensitive doctor suggested that we commit Jason, adding that "some people even take them home." The mountainside had not changed since I was born.
Today, the mountainside looks a bit different, thanks to the technological tools of the 21st century. New tests and an abject fear of difference have made abortion of Down syndrome babies commonplace. In countries such as Iceland, Denmark and France, most pregnancies with a Down syndrome diagnosis are terminated.
Post columnists Marc Thiessen, Ruth Marcus and George Will have been discussing the wisdom of terminating these pregnancies from radically different perspectives. Will put the big word, genocide, on the table, arguing that an entire class of citizens is being eliminated. Marcus called the state legislative attempts to outlaw abortion because of an in vitro Down syndrome diagnosis "unconstitutional, unenforceable - and wrong."
Rachel Adams, whose son has Down syndrome, wrote in The Post to plead that kids such as hers be left out of the politically fracturing abortion debate. Bravo to her.
But I think it's time we talked frankly about leaving countless deformed and genetically challenged babies on the mountainside. And that's exactly what we're doing by aborting 67 percent of our diagnosed children. How is this abortion based on medical diagnosis any different from leaving deformed children to the wolves?
I find it reprehensible and morally dangerous that our governments would pretend to know best what choice parents should make. I oppose abortion, but I believe the state must stay out of that choice.
My life has been worth living. The mountainside would have been a bad place for me. Jason's life has been worth living. He makes every person he encounters better. He spreads joy and kindness everywhere he goes. His ready laugh, his obvious kindness and his precious insight enrich our family. When his mother died a few years ago, as I sobbed, he pointed at his head and his heart and said, "Daddy, she's here and here."
Everyone who is different deserves respect and celebration. Rather than wasting so much time screaming at each other about abortion, we must build a basic respect for all lives.
Every child makes the world more complete. And no child deserves to be left on the mountainside.The Washington Post