Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

prenatal testing that gets us somewhere

By Leila Marie Lawler ( articles ) | Jan 18, 2007

I almost missed this great rebuttal to the call for more Down’s syndrome prenatal-testing. It could only have been written by someone with a Down’s syndrome child, and the point it makes speaks to the complexity of human existence. It’s a paradoxical truth that suffering brings joy; that our best experiences were not planned by us – we don’t really know what happiness is until we look back.

The dignity of the author’s experience, and the formality of the venue in which the piece appeared, doubtless hindered her from exploring all the implications of the issue.

The fact is, prenatal testing will be flawed until all defects, visible and invisible, can be identified. What about issues other than Down’s syndrome that people may not want to face, ones that aren’t so easily targeted with current prenatal techniques? No one really knows who will be stricken with, say, leukemia at a young age, causing untold suffering for the family and burden on our medical system. People are taking a huge risk having any child, when you think about it.

No one has even thought of predicting how a child might inflict moral grief on their family. I would be willing to bet that there is a fair number of parents of serial killers who would gladly have exchanged, with hindsight, the anguish of the evil done by their child for the fate of living with someone retarded.

And what about the crying need for testing for producing a child who will grow up to be an intolerant jerk? Think of how terrible you would feel if your child turned out to be someone who became a judgmental know-it-all, willing to consign to the incinerator any child who doesn’t measure up to his own preconceptions of what constitutes worthiness in offspring, even on the suspicion of Down’s syndrome?

Yes, prenatal testing is a sadly crude instrument that would be better not used until it can be perfected.

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