The mother of a child born with Down syndrome is speaking out against legislation that bans abortions after a fetal diagnosis of the genetic disorder.
Hallie Levine, 42, of Stamford, Connecticut, wrote in an essay for Yahoo Parenting about the struggles of raising a child with Down syndrome. She wrote that she was “appalled” that the state of Ohio might become the second state to outlaw women from terminating pregnancies based on a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, adding that if she had known about her daughter’s condition, she would have gotten an abortion.
“This is an issue that hits close to home for me: If I had had a prenatal diagnosis, I would have obtained an abortion,” Levine wrote. “Today, I am beyond grateful that I didn’t. But I cannot ever in any circumstances imagine insisting others not have that right.”
North Dakota became the first state to prohibit such abortions in 2013. The legislation outlaws abortions based on cases of “genetic abnormality or a potential for a genetic abnormality.”
Levine cited a statistic claiming that, “anywhere from 67 percent to 85 percent of women who learn their baby has Down syndrome terminate their pregnancies.”
The mother of three recalled asking her doctor for an amniotic fluid test on numerous occasions. She said she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, but was constantly “greeted with condescension” whenever she voiced her concerns.
“It turns out my fears were warranted: My daughter arrived a month early, with a shock of dark hair, a huge, lusty cry — and a diagnosis of Down syndrome,” Levine wrote.
Just an hour after her daughter was born, doctors told Levine the child needed immediate surgery for an intestinal obstruction. They also suspected the baby had a heart defect.
“I just stared at them in absolute shock, thinking: ‘I never signed up for this,’” she wrote.
Levine said she struggled with “crippling postpartum depression” months after her daughter Johanna’s birth. She wrote that knowing she would have terminated her pregnancy had she known about Johanna’s condition filled her with guilt.
Still, Levine believes no woman should be forced to go through what she went through.
“Johanna (nicknamed Jo Jo) is the center of my world, and she’s doing great,” Levine added. “But it was a rocky road to get where we are today, and while it’s a path I’m glad I’m on, I would never want to see a woman forced into it.”
Levine said if she had known about Johanna’s condition and was forced to go through with the pregnancy, “it would have been a disaster.”
“The worst thing you can do to a woman going through a crisis is to leave her feeling even more disempowered,” she wrote.
Levine concluded that the legislation to force women to give birth to a child with Down syndrome does nothing to help people with the disorder. She wrote that all it does is send her daughter a message that “she doesn't have the right to make decisions based on what she thinks is in her baby's interest.”