Disclaimer: This story deals with the subject of abortion. There is no explicit or graphic content, but if reading about abortion is difficult or triggering for you, I’d encourage you to think carefully about whether you want to continue reading or choose something else that I’ve written.
This is a true story that happened while I was in my second year of university. By telling this story, I am speaking up for the unborn children whose lives are ended due to disability. I am not seeking to debate or argue, so please leave such comments out of the comment section. Thank you.
My heart pounds and the tears sting my eyes. My partner reaches for me and I collapse into him. The room is quiet as the other pro-life club members look on in stunned silence, watching for my reaction. But I can’t react yet. I can only hold on to my partner for dear life. Life that had unknowingly hung in the balance for a girl just like me.
I meet her on the way to my health class as I crunch the leaves with a childlike joy. Upon seeing my white cane, she says, “I have a blind daughter. Can I ask you a question?”
“Absolutely! I’m Rhianna,” I say, offering her my hand.
“My daughter is only nine now, but I want her to have a good education. Seeing you here, I presume it works, but I don’t know how. Will she be able to do university?” She sounds both hopeful and apprehensive.
I want to hug her. She doesn’t know the ins and outs of post-secondary education with a disability, but who does until they’re faced with it head-on? I’m just so happy that she’s taking the time to find out.
We stand on the sidewalk, students bustling past as I detail my university experience — how I receive electronic textbooks, the accommodations provided for students for disabilities and the support offered by the Disability Resource Center on campus.
“Thank you,” she says, a genuine relief in her voice.
“No problem. Happy to help.” I say, and I run to my kinesiology lecture for which I am now almost late.
An hour later, in the pro-life club meeting, I excitedly relay my conversation with the woman with the blind daughter. “She doesn’t know much about blindness, but she’s determined to learn what she needs to for her daughter,” I say.
It makes me think of my parents, not knowing anything of disability until their four-year-old daughter gets diagnosed with bilateral eye cancer and then all are thrust into this new, unknown world. And with everything new and unfamiliar facing their family, they did the best they could—which was pretty great. I smile. My parents are awesome.
Valerie enters the room with a summary of her conversations around campus about the student body’s perspectives on the pro-life/pro-choice debate.
“I talked to this woman who has a blind daughter,” she says.
“I met her,” I say. “We had such a good conversation.”
“She told me that if she had known her daughter would be blind, she would have had an abortion.”
The silence is like thunder, but it can’t compare to my heart. How can this be? She would have aborted her own daughter? She was so determined to give her daughter a good life, yet she would have had an abortion and taken away that life by choice? And all because she was blind?
My mind starts spinning. Would my parents have aborted me had they known I would be diagnosed with cancer and be blind for the rest of my life? I know in my heart the answer is no, but the thought makes me sick. My parents may not have made that choice, but others have, and still might.
And now, all I want to do is hold this nine-year-old girl and tell her that she is enough, that she’s loved and she will have a good life.
After the semester, I leave the pro-life club, not because my position changed but because I’m not in a place where I’m ready to have these conversations and hear someone’s brutal honesty about people’s perceptions of the value of life, and particularly, disabled lives. Because I know that woman’s view is all too common, and it won’t be the last time I hear the same sentiments.
I just hope that woman’s daughter never has to hear it, especially from her own mother.