Thursday, January 30, 2003

Terry Eastland on The Forgotten Option

LAST MONTH, "Dateline NBC" told the story of a young couple's decision to have a baby who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The story, which took place in 1998, is worth recalling as the nation continues to grapple with the morality of abortion.

In "Dateline"'s account, Greg and Tierney Fairchild (of Hartford, Conn.) receive the good news that Tierney is pregnant with their first child. But later tests reveal that their baby will have Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that can produce a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. For the Fairchilds, who both happen to support abortion rights, that prospect raises the question of whether they (or, to be precise, Tierney) will choose abortion.

The Fairchilds worry about the severity of their child's retardation and the unfair burden it might place on other children they hope to have. They learn their baby would have to undergo heart surgery. They go back and forth on abortion but appear close to choosing it.

As the legal deadline for making that decision draws near, Greg wonders about the adoptability of a baby like theirs and calls a local service. He is told it is "no problem" finding parents for babies with Down syndrome. The couple is taken aback.

"One of the things we hadn't considered," Tierney says, "was that . . . someone else would love to have [this child] and was prepared to handle it." Her husband adds, "[I]t even makes you question yourself. What is it exactly that I'm so worried about, if there are people lined up to adopt this baby?"





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