Is it right to abort unborn disabled babies?
I believe not. As I’ve said before, I believe the practice is wicked, the modern equivalent of exposing imperfect infants on a hillside or dungheap to die (ancient Christians made a practice, Rodney Stark says, of rescuing abandoned babies, which is one reason they prospered while the pagans did not).
Briefly, here are my reasons:
(1) According to the prophets, abortion is generally like unto murder.
(2) There are narrow circumstances where the church will not impose ecclesiastical sanctions on couples who decide to abort their children. The church does not actually say that abortion is justified in these circumstances.
(3) These circumstances include serious health threats to the mother and threats to her life. They also include circumstances where the child is so disabled that it will die at or before childbirth.
(4) Disability per se isn’t one of those circumstances.
On this last point, some will argue that having a disabled child is a serious mental health threat because caring for a disabled child is emotionally roiling. I disagree, for the following reasons:
(a) First, people who do have disabled children do not generally go mad; in fact, aborting a child seems to pose more risks to mental health than carrying the child full term does. This is true even of people who are categorically opposed to abortion so we can’t say that its just because God only told the people who were able to care for the child to not abort it.
(b) Second, aborting a child because of the burden it will pose after birth isn’t really what the mother’s serious health threat/life threat exception has in mind. If we’re talking about threats that occur after birth, infanticide would also be justified, but in fact we view infanticide always and everywhere as a sin.
(c) Third, aborting a child because of the burden it will pose after birth would allow for aborting it on the basis of serious threats to the health of the father (i.e., if the father would go mad or become gravely depressed), but the church does not make an any exception for the serious threats to the health of the father. Together reasons (b) and (c) mean that the serious health threat/life threat exception is just about pregnancy and childbirth risks.
(d) Fourth, since many are willing to adopt disabled children, and since most states have ‘foundling laws’ that allow parents to abandon their child at birth, the harm of caring for a child after it is born are not sufficient justifications for ending its life.