(CNSNews.com) – Five years after the abortion of his son, who had been pre-natally diagnosed with Down syndrome, a grieving father, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke with CNSNews.com about the decision to end his child’s life and the aftermath of that decision.
The man and his wife, who was in her early forties when she became pregnant, already had a healthy daughter. For that first pregnancy, the couple did not have pre-natal screenings or testing. But after what “Joe” said was his wife having “an intuitive sense that something was wrong” with her second pregnancy, the couple agreed she would be tested.
A blood screen showed there was an increased risk that the child she was carrying had Down syndrome. The results of a subsequent amniocentesis confirmed that the unborn child had the genetic disorder caused by an extra chromosome that typically results in the child having some degree of mental retardation and certain distinct physical characteristics, including upslanting eyes and low muscle tone.
"Joe" agreed to speak with CNSNews.com about his and his wife's decision to have a doctor abort the life of their son and his experience in the wake of that decision.
CNSNews.com: “Did you and your wife agree on having an abortion?”
Joe: “Well, her case was pretty convincing. She felt that something was wrong, in addition with the child other than just Down’s.”
CNSNews.com: “Did you have proof of that?”
Joe: “No, no. Plus, the fact that we were older. We’re sure that our life expectancy isn’t going to be well into our 80s or anything considering our family background, and it would have been basically our daughter looking after him, making sure he was okay.”
CNSNews.com: “You knew it was a boy? Did that make the decision more difficult?”
Joe: “Any child would make it more difficult. You have to understand this. We spent three weeks from the time we found out the diagnosis and we researched both sides of the issue. What support was there for a child with Down’s? What degree of debilitation they may have? Because it is a throw of the dice.”
CNSNews.com: “But you didn’t know if he would be high functioning.”
Joe: “There’s really no way of knowing if he could be very high functioning. There’s no way you could determine that, based on the diagnosis we had.”
CNSNews.com: “Do you have regrets about this decision?”
Joe: “I always do. I mean, hell, I’ll cup a moth and let it outside without killing it. Don’t you think I would have afforded my son better?”
CNSNews.com: “It sounds like you do regret it.”
Joe: “Perhaps. But at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. We went to counseling before we went through with this thing. We were lucky in that we were well set up to get answers. And the counselor said that whatever you decide, either way, this could be very destructive for a couple if they kept the child and if they did not.
“You know what is the sickest part of all? He was about 20 weeks along. We went through the whole child-birth process after the fact. And when he was born, if you wish to call it that, the doctor that delivered him said there were no visible signs of Down’s. Tell me that wasn’t a knife through the heart.”
CNSNews.com: “What if your daughter came to you 20 years from now and said, this is what I found out (that my unborn child has Down syndrome), what should I do?”
Joe: “Like I’d tell anybody. Just make sure you can live with your decision because it’s irrevocable.”
CNSNews.com: Are you living with your decision?
Joe: “Every day. I’ve only told two of my friends about it and you don’t get that Christian backlash that you are vile, you are an agent of murder. Perhaps I do think that. But they said, ‘Oh no, I wouldn’t bring a child like that into the world.’
“You know what the strange thing is, it just made me pause when I thought about it, that less children are being born with Down’s--of course they are not because the parents are not carrying them to term.
“Believe me, if you would have approached me even before we found out, I would have said, ‘No way. No way. A woman has a right to choose.’ But both parties have to live with the decision.”
CNSNews.com: “It doesn’t sound like you were okay with that decision.”
Joe: “I’ve gone through four years of counseling so far. (My wife) has gone to a support group. I think she’s come a long way with it. But I think she’s surprised that I haven’t come as far as she has. Of course, she has regrets. Things are very sad in her life that she can’t say she’s had two children.”
Joe wasn’t asked another question, but he offered one final comment.
Joe: “I think the bottom line is you have to be able to function and live as you did beforehand with the decision you made. In fact, I’m not fully out of it yet and it’s been five years. It’s almost like a Jacob Marley-esque thing that I will drag around with me forever. If I could find some means of redemption I’d like to know how I could go about doing that.”