Some say that, if the fetus is going to be disabled – and especially if it will suffer – its life may not be worth living, so that abortion in this case may be justified. However, to say this is to fail to value the lives of disabled people who are already born – as many disabled people have themselves pointed out. Are we going to kill born disabled people too, because we think their lives are not worthwhile? Should we not value the presence of all human beings, whatever their state of health? Of course we can always ‘prevent disability’ by killing those who are disabled. But this is no more acceptable in Britain today than it was in Germany in the 1930s, when the disabled were indeed killed as a ‘burden’ to themselves and the State. It is not right to treat human beings as subhuman, or their lives as having no value, whether on the ground of disability, age, size or level of development. There is no such thing as a ‘worthless’ human life.
Some claim that disability is (or can be) so burdensome for the family of the disabled person that this alone justifies abortion of a disabled unborn child. This approach tends to underestimate the suffering involved in losing a child by late abortion – to say nothing of the risk of miscarriage caused by tests used to detect medical conditions in the womb. It also fails to recognize what countless families of disabled children have discovered for themselves: that the disabled child can be experienced as a blessing -a gift which enriches the family. There is much we can learn from the experience of caring for a disabled child about the meaning of life, and of love as unconditional acceptance. In contrast, what we learn from abortion is that children need not be accepted unconditionally – and may even be killed if they fail to meet our standards of health.
LORD HAVE MERCY