the Ultimate Discrimination
Courageous Teen Resists Pressure to Abort Disabled Son
By SUSAN BRINKMANN
The Catholic Standard and Times
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
October 23, 2003
Chrissy Morgan, of Northeast Philadelphia, had just completed her freshman
year in high school when she found out she was pregnant. She was 15.
Like thousands of other women caught in the same situation, her only "choice"
seemed to be abortion.
But crisis has a way of bringing out the best - or the worst - in a person.
In Chrissy's case, it was a time to discover a strength she never knew she had.
"At one point it just clicked with me that I was pregnant with a human being.
This was actually a child. It wasn't really my decision to take the baby's life.
When I think about it, I guess it was God telling me to be strong about it and
don't cave in . ... There was just no way that I was going to have an abortion."
But her crisis had just begun. At five months, an ultrasound revealed some
kind of abnormality in the baby, a boy she learned. Further testing revealed the
presence of a condition called holoprosencephaly, which occurs when the front of
the brain doesn't separate the way it should….
"They told me that he would never eat breath or move on his own," Chrissy
said, "and that he would be pretty much a vegetable his entire life. They said
it was in his - and my - best interest to have an abortion."
But she was too far along to have an abortion in Pennsylvania. She would have
to fly to Kansas to have it done. When the doctors saw her wavering, they
insisted that no one would ever adopt the child. They even offered to pay her
The pressure was enormous. "I actually teetered a little more because there
were so many more people pressuring me to have an abortion. All signs seemed to
be pointing toward it."
Chrissy was learning another unexpected fact of life -- the pressure to abort
unborn babies with abnormalities. Thousands of women experience it every year,
and the situation has become a worldwide problem.
Called eugenic abortion, it is considered a "merciful" procedure that spares
a child and family the "catastrophe" of having to live with a disability.
But Bill Albert of the Council of Disabled People argues that the real
catastrophe is destroying disabled infants.
In a recent Catholic World News report, he argued that people need to "face
up to what's going on and not say this is about choice. This is about
elimination . ... You're talking about eradicating a whole section of the
population - it's state-sanctified eugenics."
The advent of prenatal testing such as amniocentesis has made the killing of
disabled babies an almost matter-of-fact procedure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that during the
1980s, in the metropolitan Atlanta area alone, 70 percent of unborn children
diagnosed with Down syndrome were aborted. This is particularly tragic, because
Down syndrome can be mild enough for people to live relatively normal lives.
Eugenic abortion continues to increase in spite of tremendous advances in
therapeutic techniques that can help many disabled children learn to read, hold
jobs and even live independently.
In addition to this alternative, research has consistently shown that even
children born with spina bifida and other crippling diseases can be dramatically
helped with surgery.
Even the argument about financial costs can be overcome. Gregg Cunningham,
executive director of the Center for Bioethics Reform, listed the real fiscal
facts in an article he wrote for the National Review.
He cited a New England Journal of Medicine estimate of the current cost of
care for "birth defective infants" to be $2 billion annually.
"That's less than the $2.3 billion Americans spend each year on chewing gum,"
Cunningham said. Americans spend more than twice that at the movies every year.
Without having access to any of this information, however, Chrissy refused to
cave in to the pressure. "I decided again that it really wasn't my choice," she
said. "If he didn't make it to delivery, then that was God's will, but I was
going to give him that chance."
A real turning point came when she and her mom visited their parish priest
for advice. "When I told him the doctors said no one would adopt the baby, he
said, 'That is absolutely not true. I guarantee you'll find a family to adopt
He was right. The National Committee for Adoption has a waiting list of
carefully screened families who want to adopt seriously disabled newborns,
including Down syndrome and spina bifida babies.
"That gave me the push to call and start contacting adoption agencies." The
priest also recommended that mother and daughter pray to Blessed Gianna Beretta
Molla for the health of the child and to the Blessed Mother every day to keep
them strong through this difficult time.
They took his advice and instantly began to receive all kinds of encouraging
messages from heaven.
In fact, the first agency they called just happened to be named the Marian
Adoption Agency. Within a week, Chrissy was connected with a young mother who
adopted only special needs children. "She sounded perfect," Chrissy said. "She
just sounded so cool." They agreed to meet. "I knew that day it was her. She's
just an amazing person."
Julie, who is in her late 20s, has one biological son and two adopted special
needs children. She has been a foster mother for special needs children for six
years, and when she looks at her kids, she sees people to love. "I have been
drawn to them my whole life. ... They accept you no matter what. They love you
because you love them. They don't ask any questions. Just take a look at these
kids, and you'll see their smiles, you'll see their heart right through because
they don't hold anything back. They're never going to lie to you. I don't know
what I would do without them."
Her love has already worked wonders on her children. When Ty first came to
her, he couldn't talk. "He's been with me a year and a half, and he talks in
full sentences and can read some words. I'm home with them all the time, so I
try to work with them as much as possible."
It was not until Chrissy delivered her son that she discovered one of the
best reasons not to abort so-called disabled children - the frequency of
inaccurate diagnoses. Although her newborn son does have a brain abnormality,
much of the accompanying diagnosis was incorrect.
"They said he wouldn't eat or breathe or move on his own, and I think he was
doing all three within the first ten minutes that he was born."
At the tender age of three days, Michael was placed in the arms of his
adopted mother and now lives outside the Archdiocese. Chrissy can see him as
much as she wants and boasts about how great he's doing now, at age 2.
Michael is alive today because his mother loved him enough to accept him just
as he was. She spared him what is certainly the ultimate discrimination - not
only killing him because of his disability, but denying him the right even to be
The names of some of the people in this story have been changed.