What is a “low quality” of life?
Frida Kahlo is one of the most important figures of 20th-century Mexican culture. Born in 1907 in Mexico City and raised during the Mexican Revolution, Kahlo is widely considered the face of 20th-century Mexican “surreal” art. Her folk art and bizarre self-portraits continue to have a strong influence in modern art and with artists of all nationalities. Famous actress Salma Hayek even portrayed her recently in a Hollywood movie! Ironically, had Frida Kahlo been conceived in 2007 –just 100 years later — statistically, it is most likely that her parents’ physicians would have suggested that they abort her…and we would never have known her beautiful works of art, nor her legacy as it is found in the modern art of other famous artists.
What does Frida Kahlo have to do with everything? You see, biographers and historians now know that Frida was born with spina bifida. This condition develops within the first 5 weeks in utero and causes defects in the spinal cord and in the bones of the backbone, leaving permanent damage to the nerves that control specific motor functions such as walking, or the control of the bowels. Nowadays the majority of parents or doctors who discover this defect in an unborn child, decide to terminate the pregnancy early, in order to “avoid the challenges” that might come with their child’s potential handicap.
It is ironic that in our modern society—so internationally connected, conscious of the environment, focused on the humane treatment of animals, obsessed with the “free will” of all human beings, and supposedly tolerant of any and all human expression—there is not much room for people with disabilities or “special needs.”
“Life seems to be demanding enough,” some say, “without adding to it the extra responsibility or burden of caring for someone else, especially someone with extra needs”
Now perhaps you know someone who lives with some sort of “special need.” Perhaps you even have a close friend or family member with some sort of handicap….and while the vast majority of people claim to have had this type of experience, sadly, there are many people who have not been blessed to know someone like this.
While it might not seem very important at first, this simple fact may just change the history of our world, especially in the way that we value human life. Let us remember during this time of Easter what while we celebrate the greatest mystery of our Faith —that is, the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ—we also celebrate the gift that is each and every human life, the sign that there is Hope for our world.
This past month, the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, in collaboration with the Catholic Marriage Movement, hosted the 6th-annual Pro-Life Congress for the Spanish Population. Instead of focusing on just one aspect of the pro-life mission, the invited speakers formed the participants about the most fundamental idea – “Choosing Life” – and how this must take place at the most basic level in our society. In reality, this theme is central to every discussion of policy and morality, be it at the national level, state level, community level, and all the way down to the smallest family unit. In contrast, the rejection of the basic value of human life leads to abortion, birth control, euthanasia, and even some current health-care legislation; it has also transformed the way society views unborn babies, even more viciously a child who may have a prenatal diagnosis that is anything outside of norm. More than ever before, abortions are the so-called “solution” for a pregnancy where there is a diagnosis of a genetic problem (such as Down’s Syndrome) or a birth defect (such as spina bifida). I’ve even heard rumors of an adoption waiting-list of over 450 US families waiting to adopt the first unwanted child to be born with Down Syndrom. The reason there are so many couples waiting is simple. The great majority of Down Syndrome-diagnosed babies don’t make it past their first few months. It seems that in such a fast-paced (and so-called “advanced”) society, there is simply no room for anything “out of the ordinary”…..and all the responsibilities that may come with it.
Right now—in 2012—we find ourselves at the threshold of a new era. Our traditional values and ability to uphold a common morality have been replaced by a new underlying ideology: pleasure. (and the subjective sense of personal gratification) For many people, the pursuit of pleasure has evolved into an obsession rather than simply a pass time, where many human beings sadly choose to neglect their responsibilities in order to seek out the almighty self-gratification.
For the average everyday citizen, life in this post-modern world already has its own responsibilities: paying bills, buying groceries, and of course all of the grueling hours at work (required to maintain a their preferred lifestyle). One can imagine that adding anything to these already “burdensome” requirements would frankly be just too much to ask. And so, the discovery of a pregnancy —an event that once was a cause for joy and celebration, no matter the circumstance — is now commonly seen as “an obstacle in the way of personal happiness” all because of the sacrifices and responsibility needed to care for a new life.
Now on top of that, what about the diagnosis of a genetic disorder or birth defect in a pregnancy? Forget about it! For the world, that would be like asking someone to sacrifice even more to what already looms as a “huge responsibility” in the first place. One child out of every thirty is born with special needs, but that number is rapidly decreasing because of the popularity and availability of abortion.
If we don’t embrace our call as “Pro-Life” messengers in our society, we will soon arrive at a moment in history where the life of every “special needs” baby is at risk, simply by virtue of being in the womb of it’s mother. Unless we speak out in truth about the gift and blessing of all human life, both doctors and parents will more increasingly view the life of a “special needs” child, as not “worth all the pain and challenge” that they may encounter in their life.
Instead of acting like God and deciding which people will have a “low quality of life” due to physical or mental limitations, we should first reflect on our own lives.
Don’t we all have special needs?!
How many times have we lacked charity towards another? How many times have we lied or become impatient with someone, not because of their actions but because of our own selfishness/sinfulness?
The truth is, we were created for much more than that! God has called us to strive for perfection, but most of the time we fall very short, by not living as we should—and even worse when we knowingly act wrongfully!
Can you see what I mean? If we (who are fully aware of what we should do) fall short in doing what we know we are called to do—and God still forgives us, and loves us!—we have no right to take life away from anyone, even if we ignorantly consider their life to be of “low quality.” If we are sincere in our own reflection of ourselves, it’s easy to see that each one of us has certain “disabilities” that keep us from being good and righteous, as we are all called to be. Who ever said that our “abilities” are only limited to the physical and mental?
Even though we witness how much of the world has been consumed by selfishness, our eyes are never to be focused on that. We are a people of Resurrection, and the dying and rising of our Lord Jesus Christ is the cause of our Faith and Hope—the very thing we live for.
We know that God has created each life, from all eternity, in His image and likeness! He has a purpose for the life-long journey (in the joys and pains!) of every human being, regardless of what society claims that someone may or may not be able to contribute.
As a father of a “special needs” baby…..I now take this attack personally. And beyond that – it saddens me when I look at the blessing that our little daughter (who isn’t even born yet!) has been to my wife and I. I can honestly say that the Lord is bringing/has brought us SO much deeper, on so many levels! The thought that so many people would be losing out on this blessing, this gift that the Lord has for us, breaks my heart. Check out our blog at Catholic Cafe con Leche – to see what kind of journey I’m talking about.
Let us dedicate ourselves to fight for every human life, especially now that we are aware of this pernicious and widespread attack against those with special needs. Instead of letting society decide which lives are worth being born, let us defend the right of each person to live, so that every human being may have the opportunity to enrich our lives and culture, just as Frida Kahlo has done in influencing art, all around the world!
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta……Please Pray for us!
May Our Lord bless you!
Andrew (with love from Cristina and Maria Isabella!)