Monday, 23 February 2015

#Microblog Mondays: risk versus possibility

1) Prenatal screening can detect the risk of delivering a baby with Down syndrome.

2) Prenatal screening can detect the possibility of delivering a baby with Down syndrome.

They mean basically the same thing, but not. We welcome possibility, while we shy away from risk.

As an agnostic feminist, I have been a lifelong supporter of women's right to choose. I have also been a lifelong advocate for - celebrator of! - the plurality of human experience. We like to think of ourselves as moving into a world of ever more respect for rights (of women, of minorities, of various 'others') and respect for diversity.

And so, like others before me, I struggle with the contradiction inherent in the fact that as our societies become more embracing of diversity, we are also, thanks in part to more accurate prenatal screening (which is not accompanied by accurate education), adopting ever more normative standards of what that diversity should look like.

By some estimates, upwards of 90% of pregnancies where a risk/possibility of Down syndrome is detected are terminated. There is a real chance that for people like my daughter, a day will come - and soon- when they will wake up to find themselves the last of their kind.

While I suspect that most people will find it hard to understand how I can say I have come to love that extra chromosome in all its unique, confounding, divisive glory, it seems a little sad to me that we're denying ourselves opportunities to live with this diversity: diversity of experience, genetic diversity, human diversity.

I can't help but think it's a shame that in our avoidance of risk (what life worth living doesn't involve some level of risk?) we are closing ourselves off from all kinds of possibilities.

Written as part of Mel's Microblog Mondays. Check it out here to participate.