We need the Life Equality Act

By Anja Baker
March 11, 2020

In Mississippi, it is legal to have an abortion because the preborn child’s race, sex, or disability is not preferred by the baby’s parents. 

This has prompted Rep. Carolyn Crawford (R-Pass Christian) and Sen. Jenifer Branning (R-Philadelphia) to bring the Life Equality Act to Mississippi. This proposed law would prohibit abortions from taking place because of the preborn child’s race, sex, or disability.

We should not tolerate the terminal discrimination of preborn children because some extended families do not approve of interracial relationships, or because a parent prefers to have a son to a daughter. Still more common is the termination of those with disabilities, a tragedy that no one would attempt to justify outside of the womb.  

A medical review looked at seven population-based studies and found that the average abortion rate after a Down Syndrome diagnosis was 67 percent. A comprehensive survey facilitated by the Charlotte Lozier Institute took opinions of people with Down Syndrome and their families and found the following:

  • 99% of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives
  • 97% of people with Down syndrome like who they are
  • 97% of brothers/sisters, ages 9-11, said they love their sibling

One only has to spend a brief moment with an individual who has Down Syndrome to witness the joy they bring into a room. Many individuals with Down Syndrome go on to live independently, attend university, marry, and maintain jobs.

However, even if these facts were not the case, individuals with Down Syndrome have an unalienable right to life. Down Syndrome and many other disabilities come as heartbreaking news to expectant mothers. Some disabilities display themselves so prominently in children that they are unable to walk, eat independently, or use the restroom alone. Some diagnoses in the womb are terminal or tragically involve the early death of babies and young children. 

None of this should be minimized.

What do we, Mississippi, say of these lives? 

It is unfathomable to those of us who have not faced an unforeseen diagnosis of a preborn child to know the emotions and financial strain these parents face. It is up to us, Mississippi, to step up, come alongside these parents, and support them. Over 40 privately funded pregnancy resource centers provide free, confidential resources and information for families facing a diagnosis. Local non-profits, churches, and local support groups offer emotional and financial support to families with children with disabilities. We certainly have room to improve and increase these services in Mississippi, but improving the world for families with disabilities requires respect for their lives, not the promotion of abortion.

For terminal cases when infants only live for a short time after birth or have a chance of passing away in the womb, perinatal hospice and palliative care programs are available to Mississippians. Care for the mother and preborn child is the ethical response to severe anomalies. Abortion does not resolve cases where a lethal fetal anomaly exists; it merely destroys the life of one of the patients. Patients and their families can and should be offered the ethical options of perinatal hospice or palliative care to support them in the same way we do families with an adult member for whom treatment has become futile. Even a brief life has meaning. 

There are times diagnoses do not result in a worst case scenario. A woman in Flowood, Tina Oates, was pressured by doctors in Mississippi to abort her son, Coit, after she contracted Cytomegalovirus. In some cases, CMV passed through the placenta during pregnancy leads to disabilities in the child. Tina’s family went against persistent medical objections, sought treatment, and have a perfectly healthy little boy today.  

Even in non-fatal cases, evidence suggests that as many as 95% of parents receiving a prenatal diagnosis of cystic fibrosis elect to abort the child. Madison resident Joseph Edge, MBA student at Millsaps and MSU Alum, has battled Cystic Fibrosis since birth. He has endured extended hospital stays and emotional and physical hurdles due to his condition. This brilliant young man is loved by his community, loves his bulldogs, and his life is certainly no less valuable than ours.  

Consider this Mississippi child, 13-year old Joseph Smith, born with Muscular Atrophy. He is adored by his community, church, and large family as the youngest of seven children. He is unable to walk, speak in full sentences, or eat orally. He requires very regular medical attention and assistance from his family for most daily functions. Joseph has favorites—cowboys and zoo animals. He has dislikes—thunderstorms and the cold. He’s friendly and loving and communicates mostly with gestures and expressions. His life is of equal value to everyone else’s. It’s time for our laws to catch up to that self-evident truth.

Each life has an inherently equal value, no matter the race, sex, or ability of the individual. Mississippi has the chance to be a national leader on this issue and can affirmatively state that it rejects the throwaway culture so prevalent in our society today. The Life Equality Act does just that and deserves to be made law.


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