A young man named Doug made a startling announcement to a friend. “When I get married,” he said, “I hope that my wife and I will have a child with Down syndrome.”
The woman Doug told this to—Joni Eareckson Tada—chalked it up to youthful idealism. But as she writes in her new book, Life in the Balance, Doug meant every word. He’d spent a lot of time with children with Down Syndrome, and witnessed “an unusual joy and guilelessness” in them. And it was clear that these children were a blessing to their parents.
And yet, children with Down Syndrome are among the most “at-risk” when it comes to survival—not from their chromosomal abnormalities, but from doctors and scientists who are determined to wipe them out.
As Joni recalls, the National Council on Disability was shocked when NIH suggested in 1988 that abortion of Down Syndrome children be considered a “disability prevention strategy.”
The Disability Council sent the report back to NIH for revision. But here we are 22 years later, and this “strategy” has been fully embraced. In 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began recommending that ALL pregnant women, not just older ones, have their babies tested for Down Syndrome—you know what that meant.
Strategies like this come out of a worldview that embraces eugenics, a word that means “good genes.” It’s a view that says humans are not acceptable unless they are perfect—healthy, smart, and beautiful.
We saw the extreme result of this movement in Nazi Germany, where the mentally ill and disabled were murdered in order to “cleanse” society of those liable to be a burden.
But the Bible gives us a different view of so-called “defective” people. Here, we learn, as Joni writes, that all humans are created in the image of God, with intrinsic value. In fact, she says, “the image of God is especially mirrored in the weak” and disabled. Remember the story in Genesis of Jacob wrestling with the man of God, and wrenching his hip out of its socket? We are told that limped away because of his hip injury. In effect, he became disabled.
This physical wound was “meant to remind Jacob of his spiritual brokenness,” Joni writes. “He could no longer feign moral strength as he limped through life with his new physical disability.”
God intentionally brings brokenness and weakness to those he loves, using them for his sovereign purposes, Joni says. “Broken, weak people display the image of God most convincingly when they lean on him for strength moment by moment.”
As for those who would harm the disabled, the weak, or the elderly—or weed them out—verses like Zechariah 2: 8 and 9 have a warning for them: “Whoever touches [the afflicted’ touches the apple of [my] eye, and I will surely raise my hand against them.”
I hope you’ll read Joni’s wonderful new book, Life in the Balance, We’ve got it for you at our bookstore at BreakPoint.org. And while you’re there, pick up a copy of my daughter’s book Dancing with Max, the wonderful story of her autistic son.
You’ll learn more from these books about how to make sense of modern debates about life. Joni will teach you how to fight on behalf of those who are quietly being targeted for extermination. I recommend it highly.