Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ignorance in Academia

I'm sure glad we're not paying overpriced tuition at UNC-Chapel Hill to finance the salary of a biology professor like Albert Harris. He's the guy who recently told his biology class that babies with Down syndrome should be aborted.

Some of his students had no problem with him sharing that opinion, but others did, including a young woman who has a brother with Down syndrome. Hearing her professor say that made her physically ill, she says.

I completely empathize with her. People who don't have a loved one with special needs are often completely clueless as to what it's like for us to hear other people says cruel things about them.

Several years back, dd24 was working at a cash register when she overheard a customer say about a customer ahead of him who had Down syndrome, "They shouldn't let people like that out in public." My daughter got so mad she had to leave the area (otherwise, I probably would have had to bail her out on an assault charge).

You see, we know what most of society does not: people with Down syndrome are people we love, and they deserve life. Even though their presence in our homes and families often makes life more difficult in some ways, it makes life better in other ways. I can honestly say that our lives are better for having dsds14 in them, and we consider him a gift of God, just like his siblings.

As for Professor Harris, I think he's full of it:

Harris says he wouldn't follow his own moral position.
If he thought his wife was going to have a child with Down syndrome, he would still want to have the baby.
And he faced that situation.
His wife, then 34, was pregnant with their third child when she suffered major bleeding. Doctors told the couple to prepare for the worst.
"If our child had been born with Down syndrome as we expected, we would have cherished her," Harris said.

Beans. There are a lot of situations that can cause the mother to bleed, but Down syndrome isn't one of them, as far as I know. The baby has an extra chromosome, not the power to cause hemorrhaging. The mother must have had some other problem.

And as for "prepare for the worst," some of us see the worst as the death of a baby, not the birth of one with Down syndrome. Geez.

BTW, if you'd like a great, honest read about how God can bless a family by sending a child with disabilities, try The Dance Goes On by Roberta Bandy. We know the Bandy family, and their story is inspiring.


Amy said...

As you know, I am gifted as well with a child w/ds and like-minded...and outraged by the words of the professor!

Janet said...

I just read an article about Harris and his "opinions". It makes me so angry.

susan said...

The mindset is ruthless.
I remember when I was pregnant with our twins and I was just hitting 35. They wanted me to have an amniocentesis as routine and I refused. I said it wouldn't make any difference whether there were the inferred 'problems' or not and I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.

It's taken me a long time in my denseness and naivete. It does make me sick when I fully realized what often happens with this information.

Susan said...

>>dd24 was working at a cash register when she overheard a customer

Oh my goodness! I'm just sitting here stunned. And amazed and proud of your daughter for the self-control she demonstrated.

>>people with Down syndrome are people we love, and they deserve life.

Not only are they people we love, but they're people. Just people. It's enough that they're PEOPLE whether they're loved or wanted or not. But our society buys into that whole "quality of life" thing.... and .... Oh, I better stop before I rant too much. Whenever I hear people on the VCFS email list talking about getting pregnant again and "taking care of the situation" to ensure that they never have another "defective" child, oh, I get so mad for so long!

KathyR said...

Currently, the estimate is that 90% of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Ds abort their baby. A large part of the reason, no doubt, is the unnecessarily negative information about Ds that doctors give parents. Now, to top it all off, ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)issued a recommendation that ALL women be 'offered' first trimester prenatal screening for Ds. Since there is not treatment for Ds, first trimester screening is only a thinly disguised search and destroy mission, in the opinion of many. (prenatal screening may have its place later in the pregnancy,so if the baby is found to have a heart defect, for example, the parents can plan to have delivery take place in a hospital with the proper staff/equipment.
anyway...if anyone would like to add their voice to this issue, a petition is here:
the plan is for those who sign it to print it off on World Down Syndrome Awareness Day and send it to members of Congress, ACOG, and the National Ds groups.
Another thing to do is ask your members of Congress to support the Brownback-Kennedy Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act' which would require doctors to give expectant parents accurate and up to date information when giving prenatal diagnosis (or up to a year after birth) of Ds or any other condition. You can read more about that here:

Barbara Frank said...

Amy and Janet, his words are infuriating, aren't they?

susan, I was told there was a 2% risk of miscarriage with amnio. I don't blame you for refusing it. I did too.

Susan, going on that email list and seeing such remarks must be a real test of your self-control. I can't even imagine...ugh.

kathyr, thanks for sharing that info.