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Rick Santorum on Face the Nation yesterday, discussing prenatal testing, in particular amniocentesis:

Vodpod videos no longer available.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     “And in fact, prenatal testing, particularly amniocentesis — I’m not talking about general prenatal care…We’re talking about specifically prenatal testing, and specifically amniocentesis, which is a procedure that actually creates a risk of having a miscarriage when you have it, and is done for the purposes of identifying maladies in the womb. And which in many cases — in fact, most cases physicians recommend — particularly if there’s a problem — recommend abortion.”

Unlike Mr. Santorum, I don’t pretend to know what is said in private conversations between women and their doctors and whether or not in “most cases” abortion is “recommended.” My best guess, based on anecdotal evidence I have about this subject based on the experience of a family member, is that ‘presented as an option’ would be a more accurate term. Here’s why I say that.

My special needs niece, 21 years old at the time, went to a party one night where some low-life asshole slipped something in drink and raped her. When she woke up she had no memory of what happened and it wasn’t until a couple of months later she found out she was pregnant. Because no one knew who the father was, amniocentesis was done. The test results showed that the baby would have Down Syndrome, be severely retarded, and probably not live more than a few months. Abortion was presented as an option, it was not recommended.

But because of her religious beliefs, for my sister–45 years old at that point–abortion was out of the question for her daughter, and their choice was for the baby to be born. Their decision was that she and my brother-in-law would adopt the little girl and raise her as their daughter.

Fortunately, the doctors were wrong. The little girl who doctors said would have severe disabilities and only live a short time will celebrate her 17th birthday in April. She is autistic, but only mildly, and has been a joy and a blessing to the entire family.

That being said, I can also see the other side. A 45-year-old mother with a special needs daughter who is pregnant because she was raped, and who isn’t prepared–financially or emotionally–to take on the responsibility of raising another child  24 years after her last one was born. Especially a child with Down Syndrome who doctors say won’t live long and has little or no chance of ever becoming anything approaching a normal child.

You could not be more wrong, Mr. Santorum. Prenatal testing in general and amniocentesis in particular isn’t about anyone wanting to see disabled babies aborted or some plot to “cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.” It’s about choice, and that thing called freedom that Republicans claim to be so passionate about preserving. And that is the purpose of the testing, obtaining all the necessary information so an informed choice can be made.

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