Thank God for Virginia Ironside, who in yesterday’s Independent cleared up the whole complex moral question of aborting potentially disabled babies. Responding to an anguished reader who has taken the difficult decision to have an abortion because her child would have been disabled, Virginia reassures her that actually it would be completely wrong not to have an abortion in that situation.
“What parent,” Virginia asks, “would knowingly give birth to a child who she knows is going to be born at a dreadful disadvantage, probably having to suffer endless operations, pain and suffering for what may be a very short life?” A very bad one, I think we are meant to conclude.
That’s that then – if in doubt, don’t give birth to that handicapped person. It’s a good job we’ve got hacks like Virginia to sort out these issues, as the people who are supposed to be qualified to do so – the Priests, the philosophers, the Reader’s Digest – are still dragging their feet and debating them endlessly. And if only we’d had the technology to identify potential disabilties in previous centuries, we might have avoided the lives of Ray Charles, Stephen Hawking, Lord Byron, Beethoven, and every single one of those athletes who has won a medal in the paralympics. And if Professor Hawking was reading this, I’m sure he’d be the first to agree he should never have been born – though I fear he’s currently too busy answering questions from all around the world about the first ever discovery of a triple quasar in space. Tsk – the life of a quadriplegic, eh.
But even if Hawking were to argue that he’s rather pleased that he was born, Virginia Ironside has anticipated his argument: “Writing this will, I know, bring in an avalanche of letters…from severely disabled adults who are horrified that I’m proposing their lives should have been extinguished before they were even born. And once they’re on the scene, of course what is there to do but love them and help them?” Of course, what indeed? It isn’t their fault they were born. “But,” she warns, “those who write optimistically about a disabled life are the lucky ones” – that’s right, disabled people who believe they had every right to be born are just selfishly ignoring all the others who would rather be dead.
In any case, as a reader letter succinctly puts it: “a handicapped child handicaps the entire family”. Damn right, they just drag everyone else down with them. Bring on the gas chambers. (Quoted reader is, I’m glad to say, now enjoying a box of Charbonnel et Walker champagne truffles for their profound opinion.)
Reading a little deeper, I think that Virginia is actually making an even more profound point; when she says that “it is only kind, fair and, importantly, truly loving not to give birth to a child who might spend its life in permanent pain and suffering”, she is surely advocating a blanket stop to any childbirth whatever. After all, any child might spend its life in permanent pain and suffering – God knows, many of us feel that we do. We all know that man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery – and as Virginia says, “there is nothing about life that makes it worth living per se”. I only wish that my parents had loved me enough to have me aborted.
Virginia Ironside is, as I said, expecting an “avalanche of letters” so if you can spare a moment email your thoughts to email@example.com because I wouldn’t wish to begrudge her a little feeling of satisfaction at every narrow-minded conservative who disagrees with her. After all, she’s probably still coming to terms with the fact that her parents didn’t love her enough to put an end to her foetus’ growth into a human being.
Well – a being, at any rate.