I am firmly pro-life. My opposition to abortion is not based on a careful study of the issue, although it may have begun that way. My position on abortion has been cemented by my family experience.
My wife became pregnant just a couple of months after we were married. We were very excited about the baby and we began to purchase clothes almost immediately. Not long after, we noticed the bleeding. A trip to the hospital brought the dreaded words from the doctor, “It looks like you are having a miscarriage.” As we were leaving the hospital, one of the nurses said to us, “There you go, good as new.” No we were not as good as new. We were grieving deeply. It was not just a disappointment of being delayed in growing our family. We were grieving because our child had died. We had even named our child, even though we did not know the gender. It is hard for me to understand how some parents could choose to experience something that was so devastating to us.
Part of our healing was to have another baby. We were so thankful that this pregnancy was successful. Our blond-haired, blue-eyed son was exceptionally cute and smart. At one and a half, he understood more about electronics than my parents did. One day I was at the doctor’s office and saw an infant vocabulary chart. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized our son had the exact number of words that were expected for his age. However, over the next year he lost every one of those words. He became fixated on things like spinning fans and seemed unable to learn by imitation. The day came when the pediatrician walked into the room with a box of tissues and pronounced the diagnosis of autism.
Not long before that diagnosis, we had another child. This time it was a beautiful little daughter who was instantly a daddy’s girl. When our son was diagnosed, the doctors asked if our daughter could be put in a sibling research study that was aimed at early detection of autism. We knew there was nothing wrong with our daughter, but we agreed if it would help other families. Less than a year later, our daughter also received a diagnosis of autism.
What else could happen to our family? We brought three siblings into our family, one a year for three years. The mother was a crack addict. She smoked crack every day of the pregnancy. She was just sitting down to smoke crack when she went into labour with the youngest. We watched each baby go through drug withdrawal and we are just now seeing the emotional damage from the drug abuse in the eldest of the three.
A person of pro-choice persuasion could see good reasons for aborting all five of our children. Why bring children with autism into the world? They will suffer from their disability and will bring more suffering on the family. Why bring babies addicted to crack into the world? Why make them endure drug withdrawal? It will be a tremendous risk for how the addiction will affect them later in life, and they may become addicts themselves. A pro-choice argument could find reasons to wipe out my entire family.
Yet it is my children who have solidified my pro-life position. My children are much more than autism and crack addiction. My children bring tremendous joy to my life and everyone who comes into contact with my family. I have seen troubled teens love and trust my nonverbal daughter because they knew she was incapable of bullying. I have seen my three youngest children find ways to engage my children with autism after professionals had thrown up their hands in defeat. Our children have value beyond the challenges they face now and may face in the future.
I am thankful that we did not abort our children with autism. I am thankful, despite all her other failings, that the mother of our three youngest did not abort them. I am pro-life by religious conviction, but I am even more pro-life by personal experience. I have seen the beauty of allowing children to live.