One state protects unborn children with disabilities

Anna Higgins is Director, Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Grand Forks Herald on September 27, 2013.

In a land of "liberty" and "opportunity," it is hard to imagine a person's worth being assigned to him based on his ability. But this is exactly what we do when we allow elective abortion based on a genetic abnormality diagnosis.

Along with many other Americans, I have a relative with Down Syndrome, and can attest that people with disabilities are just as valuable and have lives just as full as people without them.

Recently, Prince William and his wife Katherine brought attention to the reality that people with Down Syndrome are worthy of respect and admiration. As reported by the Huffington Post, the royal couple does not usually accept gifts but made an exception recently when they received a beautiful painting made for them by 43-year-old Tazia Fawley, an artist with Down Syndrome.

Suzie Moffat, the director of Heart & Sold, an organization that supports artists with Down Syndrome and helped pass on the painting to the royal couple, noted, "in England, there always has been a stigma attached to (Down Syndrome), and now that is washed away by the fact that the Duke and Duchess have accepted that painting. ... For this to happen, it's kind of turned that negativity around."

To deny a person the chance to experience life because he is different or faces physical challenges violates basic human rights and the principles at the heart of our nation. It also deprives the rest of us and our children the chance to love and to learn from very special people such as Tazia Fawley, who may be different from us but who have incredibly generous hearts and unique perspectives.

Thanks to a recent dismissal of the case against the Pre-natal Non-Discrimination Act (PRENDA) in North Dakota, that state now is the first to have a law in place defending pre-born children with disabilities.

Along with a ban on sex selective abortion, the North Dakota PRENDA law is the first of its kind to protect children diagnosed with Down Syndrome and other genetic abnormalities.

Policy experts from the Family Research Council were front and center during the hearings debating the bill this past spring. Joined by some of our colleagues in other groups, the council presented scientific, legal and human rights arguments in support of the legislation.

Abortion is a particularly grievous threat to pre-born children diagnosed with genetic abnormalities such as Down Syndrome. According to published studies, a staggering 92 percent of pre-born children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. This statistic is unacceptable.

In the new law, a person is legally protected from discrimination based on gender and disability both before and after birth. This standard reflects and upholds the high values we hold dear - that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.

Allowing abortion of a person based on gender or disability asks us to eschew those values. This is incompatible with the Constitution and a society that places such high value on the dignity of the individual.

It is particularly troubling to deny these rights to those persons who do not have a way to speak for themselves but rather rely on those in power for protection.

North Dakota may have been the first state to enact legislation protecting pre-born persons with disabilities, but it is our hope that many more states will follow in its footsteps.

Persons with disabilities add beautiful dimension to the world, a world that would be much darker without their presence. Instead of eliminating persons with disabilities and denying them the right to live based on their differences, we should celebrate those differences and open our hearts to everything they have to teach us.

Life through their eyes is a dazzling new experience - one brimming with endless possibility.