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Zika Shouldn't Legitimize Abortions Of Imperfect Babies

Science and medicine have yet to demonstrate exactly how and when Zika affects the brain of a fetus, yet people are rushing to conclude that abortion is the logical choice. A journalist with his own physical limitations weighs in.

A pregnant woman getting an ultrasound in Recife, Brazil
A pregnant woman getting an ultrasound in Recife, Brazil
Jairo Marques*

-OpEd-


SAN PAULO — Babies born with microcephaly have very little chance to live meaningful lives. Or so the conventional wisdom goes. I've been reading about the comments of parents, who say these babies "cry too much," that the damage to their brains is extensive, that they have visual impairments, among others.

Science and medicine have yet to demonstrate exactly how and when the Zika virus affects the brain of a fetus, and yet they say that babies born with it won't ever have a decent life, that they won't be able to navigate the challenges and become normal people.

And so out of all this has sprung the idea that abortion is the easiest and least dramatic solution for all, including society, which then wouldn't be burdened with the problem.

The idea is that to face the difficulties, to love and raise a child born in contradiction to what's considered normal would be a stupid, almost barbaric choice.

Raising a baby — any baby — comes with hidden challenges that test our beliefs and teach us different ways to face reality. All over the world, thousands of people live with rather incapacitating deficiencies of various kinds. With support, access to medical interventions from the very beginning and an understanding of their needs, many of them are able to grow up happily and contribute in meaningful ways.

This isn't about the right of women to make decisions they find most appropriate for their bodies and wombs. This is about stopping to question whether we should really legitimize the eradication of a generation.

Though they might be hiding some frustration and fear somewhere in their minds, each father and mother who embrace a son or a daughter with limitations loves every inch of them and laughs in their moments of silliness. Never would they abandon or give up on their child.

The tragedy of microcephaly has given rise to an outcry that had drowned the sounds of resilience and happiness among families, even those who are struggling with their children's disabilities.

I defend free will. But I can't accept or get used to the fact that this other choice, which is much more fragile, is being hidden. I can't accept or get used to the extreme reactions to a disease that hasn't yet been entirely mapped or understood. And I can't accept the attitude of pity towards those who decide to embrace their imperfect offspring and love them despite the certain challenges.

No, I wouldn't wish to have a child with microcephaly, who is constantly limited and who would consume most of my time, money and emotions. But I wouldn't decide to have or not have a baby with severe disabilities based on fear, vanity or supposed personal incapacities.


*Jairo Marques is a reporter who regularly writes about living with physical limitations. He has used a wheelchair since childhood.

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Coronavirus

Will China's Zero COVID Ever End?

Too much has been put in to the state-sponsored truth that minimal spread of the virus is the at-all-cost objective. But if the Chinese economy continues to suffer, Xi Jinping may have no choice but to second guess himself.

COVID testing in Guiyang, China

Cfoto/DDP via ZUMA
Deng Yuwen

The tragic bus accident in Guiyang last month — in which 27 people being sent to quarantine were killed — was one of the worst examples of collateral damage since the COVID-19 pandemic began in China nearly three years ago. While the crash can ultimately be traced back to bad government policy, the local authorities did not register it as a Zero COVID related casualty. It was, for them, a simple traffic accident.

The officials in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou, of course, had no alternative. Drawing a link between the deadly crash and the strict policy of Zero COVID, touted by President Xi Jinping, would have revealed the absurdity of the government's choices.

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