Responding to the un-answerable comment

That look (Downs syndrome)
Image by Andreas-photography via Flickr

On Monday morning after Christmas, I found this comment, on an earlier blog post, from “Greg” in my email inbox (all mistakes his):

Will human stupidity know no bounds?
YOU chose to have a disabled baby.
YOU chose to not have an abortion
YOU decided to raise it.

Now you expect insurance to pay for your mistakes?

Why should everyone bbe burdened by your decision? If insurance pays for all the disabled child needs, then that means everyone else has to pay a higher insurance rate to offset the costs.

Would u be ok for an insurance company to pay for physical therapy on a guy who was constantly jumping and falling flat on his back even AFTER he was warned by doctors that it is very unhealhy?

Case closed


I’m having trouble imagining what kind of person could write this email. There seems to be a hostility beyond reason in his argument. Some among my friends, perhaps wiser than me, have suggested that the better course of action is to ignore it, as “Greg” is either desperate for any kind of attention or so closed-minded that persuasion is futile.

File:Polio physical therapy.jpgIndeed, I’ve found it harder to respond than I initially expected. All my power of reason is based on a certain set of ethical standards, which I thought were fairly universal, even if people apply them in different ways. For example, even those who think that it’s okay to terminate an “imperfect” pregnancy tend to be passionate about treating the disabled population with the respect and dignity due to all human beings. There is a commonality of values here, and my job is to illuminate the inconsistency in the way they apply it.

This comment shows no such commonality. How do I respond to someone who shows no sense of the innate dignity of the human person? Frankly, the warped perspective makes me suspect the whole thing is a prank.

Nonetheless, here’s an attempt at finding common ground with this commenter (which response will also be emailed to him following posting):

First: Despite the widespread use of prenatal screenings, not every child with Down’s (or any other condition) can be identified in utero. Even prenatal screenings aren’t foolproof. We did not know our daughter had Down’s until two hours after she was born. It wouldn’t have made any difference, anyway, but the fact is that your entire argument is based on a prenatal “choice” that many people don’t even have.

Second: by your logic, insurance shouldn’t be required to pay for any ongoing condition that could have been avoided–including many conditions and diseases that are not disability-related. Diabetes, even cancer–these things frequently have a genetic component (like Down’s), but they also tend to come on when people chronically mistreat their bodies (smoking, poor eating habits). Are you going to deny them coverage, too, because it’s “their own fault”?

But most importantly, you are proceeding from a set of faulty assumptions: first, that a person with a disability is an “it,” not a “he” or a “she;” and second, that “choosing” to raise the child, who is a visible sign of my husband’s and my love for each other, is a “mistake.” I have trouble imagining that anyone who has taken time to get to know a person with a disability could make this argument. Because once you open your mind and heart to an individual, you find that they are just that: an individual, unique and precious, with their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s just as ludicrous to reduce a person to the sum of their devlopmental delays as it would be to reduce a contact lens wearer to the label “near-sighted.”

Human relationships are not measured by what you get out of them, but by what they inspire in you: the best or the worst of the human spirit. If you reserve your love only for those who are “perfect”, you condemn yourself to loneliness–because no one will ever meet that criteria. We all have warts. Big ones. Some of them are just more obvious than others. But the hidden warts, the ones no one knows about, can do more damage to others than an extra chromosome ever could.

Is this off the topic of insurance coverage? You bet. But how can we discuss what should or shouldn’t be covered before addressing the basic dignity of a human being? Without that, the debate is meaningless.