Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Protecting the Right to Life of Those with Intellectual Disabilities


Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell recently amended the state’s FY2011-2012 budget to exclude tax-payer funded elective abortions for low-income residents. This has sparked a furor within the pro-choice community, in particular, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. Life News reports that “the group suggests the Virginia governor should support ‘a small, but significant group of women who seek abortion care due to fetal abnormality’ and it claimed McDonnell is attempting ‘to curb access to care for women.’” The types of fetal abnormalities for which a woman might procure an elective abortion include a wide swath of disabilities, among them Down Syndrome.

This proposed amendment and the debate surrounding it brought to mind a blog post published in the New York Times a few months back, in which the mother of two young boys with Down Syndrome wrote compellingly of their inherent value as human beings and the important contribution the boys make to their family and society, not in spite of their disability, but precisely because of it.

The article is a poignant reminder that in seeking to eliminate any aberration from the norm through prenatal screening and elective abortion not only are women and families hurt, but society as a whole loses the gift of a unique and very precious life. It is true that abortion immediately hurts those intimately involved – mother, father, baby and extended family, but any abortion, and in this case abortions of those with intellectual disabilities, also deprives the world of a special group of people who play a key role “in creating a more humane, compassionate, and hospitable society…[and] as a society, we need what people with intellectual disabilities have to offer.”

Elise Pino is Center Services Manager at Care Net. She can be reached at epino@care-net.org.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Inspiring Life Through Weakness


Who among you is strong? In our world, strength is valued highly, as it should be. It’s the football player who wins the awards, the soldiers who get parades, and the marathon runners, cancer survivors, and Nobel winners that gain glory.

But Biblically, who does God, our Creator, consistently choose to do his work? The midget tax collector, the blind, the meek, the poor, the lame, the prostitutes, and the liars, and you and me. He chose Moses, the stutterer, David, the little brother no one respected, and Rahab, the prostitute. As a man, Jesus spent his days among lepers, the sick, the lame and the dying. So what does this mean for you and me?

Pay it forward! When you’re down, help someone else up. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others. Reach out and touch someone. Each of these phrases has been said by countless people as they help someone in need. Whether taking a meal to a sick friend, mowing the lawn of an elderly neighbor, running an errand for someone without a car, or praying for a friend in need. Each time we choose to help someone else it seems that we, in turn, help ourselves.

Each of us knows the feeling you get when someone says, “Thank you! No one has ever done that for me”, or “I really needed a friend and you were there. You’re the best!” We immediately feel a lift in our own spirits, a hop appears in our step, and our day looks a little bit brighter.

It would seem that when we are at our weakest, we act stronger. It is when we are in the midst of tragedy that our hero selves come out.

Just a few months ago, our eyes were glued to the TV screen after the earthquake practically destroyed Haiti, watching and cheering the countless workers, volunteers, doctors, and locals who continued to defy all odds to bring aid, water, and hope to that nation and its people. For me, emotions ran high as I watched Haitians, deprived themselves of life’s most basic dignities, put aside their own needs to work late into the night searching for the any sign of life in the rubble and sharing meager rations with a neighbor now sharing a home in a makeshift tent. It is indeed true that most often, it is those most injured, most troubled, most lost who are able to just do good! When we are weak we quickly begin to realize that we are not the proverbial hands reaching into the mire to save those lower and less fortunate than ourselves, but rather that we are fellow strugglers who are lifting our hands to help those around us, to bring hope, and to inspire life!

My son, Micah, a Pediatric ICU nurse recently sent me this story:

It is somewhat odd to find joy at a funeral…yet here I sit, tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. Around me the mourners sit, gathered to pay tribute to an angel named Gracie. Gracie was 2 years old, and 16 of the 24 months of her life were spent in the ICU, yet around me is a crowd of people who Gracie blessed.

I took care of Gracie for several months, on two separate occasions. I saw her at the brink of death more that once, squeezing life back into her heart late one night. I held her through her opiate withdrawals after a month of sedation. I pulled the breathing tube from her lungs as she stopped breathing, and I held her momma’s hand as she passed from this life into the arms of our Daddy Jesus.

And here I sit, at her funeral, seeing the hundreds of lives that she touched in her 2 short years. I see people who took strength from her struggle, joy from her smile, and hope from her shimmering, larger than life baby blue eyes. And I stand at her coffin humbled by the blessing she brought in her tiny broken body!

She taught me this: When we hurt the most, when this world threatens to overtake us with its heaviness, IN THAT MOMENT is our greatest chance to truly love those who hurt around us, for only in that pit of despair can we understand. Gracie inspired so many because during her short life she was able to smile and laugh, even with a literally broken heart. Can we not, within our feeble trials and tribulations, do the same?
And so I ask myself the same question, can we not do the same through our own pain and suffering, shortfalls and failures? How is that you and I can turn our weaknesses to helping someone else become stronger? Could you sit and listen to a lonely old man in a nursing home? Perhaps you could walk into the soup kitchen instead of past it and serve a meal. Inspire life by sharing a bit of your own story with someone in need, young women in a crisis pregnancy, a father whose girlfriend aborted his child, a mother stressed out about the lifestyle choice her daughter is making.

Strength does come from weakness as we begin to realize in helping others that there, but by the grace of God, go we! The hurt, the dying, the confused, and the rebellious all yearn for the love of God displayed in your hands rocking them to sleep, in your feet walking with them through loss, in your words that lead to forgiveness and hope, and in your own tears, silence and laughter. And in doing so, I would imagine that your trials take a back seat, your backs stand a little straighter, and your hearts beat a little stronger. And we perhaps begin to realize, it’s not about “me,” but about “we!”

Terry Williams is the Care Net Regional Consultant for Texas and Executive Director of Central Texas LifeCare in San Marcos. She has been involved in pregnancy center ministry since 1991. Terry can be reached at terrywilliams@centurytel.net.