The Dilemma of Disability and Disease

Angela Chininin Buele

Viewing Already Fragile Life in Light of New Health Risks

Zika is a new buzz word, but all of its implications boil down to a very common fear.  When a couple attempts to conceive and are blessed to be able to do so, much is assumed about the security of the baby’s development and health.  However, tests designed to indicate level of risk (not diagnose, mind you) of potential genetic abnormality are packaged and performed in order to prepare expectant parents to decide if their baby will be healthy enough or if some condition, or the possibility of such a condition, would prompt them to abort and try again for a healthy baby.

Because those who intentionally conceive presumably have no resistance to their wombs serving as nurturing station for their developing child, the decision to abort upon receiving indication that the baby could have health problems, demonstrates an inaccurate understanding of the value of the child.  A baby is, by nature, in constant need and vulnerable to even mild risks.  The God of Life creates each person, without mistake, to reflect His glory and to give and receive love generously.  When children are denied birth because their parents are told that they will not look a certain way or perform skills at a sufficient level, we treat the bearing and raising of children like an Olympic qualifier instead of the delightful challenge that it is.  When we want to treat people like possessions, we must not be surprised when violence increases.

It is truly heartbreaking.  Microcephaly (caused by Zika), Down’s Syndrome, and Spina Bifida trigger terror in the hearts of many expectant parents.  I would like to suggest that this response offers a more certain diagnosis of a parent’s failure to love than any risk level marker/indicator can diagnose a baby’s failure to be “normal.”  It used to be understood that children come with neither manuals nor receipts for returns.  Nor do they come with warranties.  And parents who are filled with terror at the thought of having a child with special needs are not loving that child.  No baby ever hated or even mourned his/her disability.  Of course there can be physical discomfort – even pain – and that brings empathy and sadness, but not terror.

Babies are not interchangeable.  They are not accessories, nor are they entertainment or a hobby.  A baby is a tiny person that is designed by God, for God, and in God’s image.  There are lovely benefits to parent and child when love is abundant in the home, but they are some else’s treasure, and we have no right to judge them as physically or intellectually insufficient and therefore deny them life.

My youngest daughter was born perfectly healthy after an uneventful pregnancy, but she developed a fever and became dehydrated at five days old.  She was admitted to the hospital where she (and I) stayed for five days while all signs seemed to point to a diagnosis of leukemia.  I’ll pause there and ask: what does the pro-choice community offer to the parents in this situation?  Before exiting the womb, the right to abortion is championed for such “defectiveness,” but what do (read: can/will) they say about the one-week-old who seems to have leukemia?  Does she have Constitutional rights now?  Should they be revoked?

Well, approximately 30 minutes before the bone marrow draw was scheduled to be performed (two years ago today), the culture came back positive for a virus.  Our little girl was the youngest person ever to develop Leukocytopenia as a result of contracting this virus.  Needless to say, we were overjoyed to know that she would not have to suffer through such a difficult condition at such a tender age, but if she had gone through it, we would have been right there with her because that is the joy and the pain of parenting – loving through difficulty.

Key Question: Despite parents’ fear of inadequacy, is it fair to deny a child life based on the possibility of disability?

Unshakable Truth:  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Sometimes we are given a gift like a quilt.  Hours and hours of work were done by some else, and we simply lay the beautiful fabric over ourselves and curl up in its warmth.  There is no work for the recipient to complete in order to enjoy the gift.  Other times, the gift is more like a sewing machine.  There is much work to be done before you will be able to curl up under the quilt you made with your sewing machine, and in the end, there is a quilt either way.  The difference is in the learning and the gain through process.

If the difficulty is relieved, we see His mercy for a moment, but if the challenge persists, we see His mercy each and every moment and we carry on by His grace.  His strength is what overcomes our weakness.

The Real Choice: Do you want God to change your circumstances so you can be yourself, or do you want Him to use your circumstances to change you, making you more like Christ?

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