Contact Us

Abort Down Syndrome Baby?

Abort Down Syndrome Baby?

 Email

Question:

I just found out my unborn baby will have Down syndrome. We already have our hands full our other kids. What will happen to the baby's soul if we abort it? Are we wrong for not wanting a child who is not perfect?

Response:

You ask whether it's wrong to want only a perfect child. As much as I love them all, I can't say that any child of mine is perfect. We have been blessed, thank G‑d, with many children, and each comes packaged with his or her challenges. I call them challenges because they have very much challenged the patience, endurance and wisdom of both my wife and I. And as is always the case with challenges, we have gained and grown from all of them.

We believe that G‑d never sends us a challenge we cannot take on, that all these challenges are meant only to take us higher and further than we could achieve without them, and that with each challenge He provides the strength we need to overcome it. You are being presented with a particularly special challenge—which means that the two of you must have special abilities that others do not.

You ask about the soul of this child. Before this child was conceived, her soul stood in the lofty place of souls above, higher than the angels, basking in serene, spiritual ecstasy beyond any pleasure we could imagine in this material world. Why did she choose to leave that paradise to descend to a physical body in a world full of pain and confusion? What could she accomplish here?

Since this will be the soul of a child who will need special care and who will know the world differently than others, she has a special mission. She is chosen to ignite the kindness that lies dormant in people's souls and plant the seeds of empathy in their hearts; to teach caring, patience and tolerance in a way no other teacher could. She will enter the world armed with lessons and tests for all who will come to know her—and she will leave it a much kinder world, a world blossoming with compassion, a world where people can feel for one another and put aside their own concerns and comfort to run to help. She will leave behind a touch of the heaven from whence she came.

So this soul chose gladly to descend to this place, because she desired to touch the essence of truth and beauty, to reach the head of the river from which all pleasures come. And that can only be found here on earth.

One more note, just a subtlety in your words: Sometimes we know the truth, but we hide from it. And the easiest place to hide is behind our own words.

You are doing this when you ask, "What will happen to the baby's soul if we decide to abort it?" But a soul is not aborted. A pregnancy is aborted, because it is a process, much as the process of building a car or a house can be aborted. But a life is not aborted; we don't abort a soul or a baby. Someone decides that this child will not live. There is another term for that, but I cannot get myself to use it. Perhaps I too am hiding behind my words.

Let me only say that you have been blessed to give life, much life, unlike many women who cry their whole lives for children and are not answered. Life is not our business; we don't choose what life shall be put in our care, when it will happen and how it should turn out. To give life is the greatest privilege bestowed upon us from Above. Leave G‑d to His plans and take His blessings as they come. Trust Him that He knows what is best for each soul He has made, for His world that He conducts and for you and your husband as well. Yes, it will be hard—as all the good things of life are hard. Keep giving life, and you will only grow.

As your doctor can confirm, these tests do not claim 100% accuracy. I know of a case where a woman was told the baby she was carrying would have Down syndrome, and the baby was born perfectly normal. You can still pray for the health of your child and ask others to pray along with you. In particular, you should write a letter to be read at the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, as is customary for Jews to ask for a tzadik—including one who has passed on--to pray on their behalf. Many have done this and experienced great miracles. Find information on that on our ohel page.

Please write back to me and we can discuss this further. With your permission, I would like to forward your letter to one or two parents of Down syndrome children that I know personally and will have much advice to share. Also, check if there is a Friendship Circle in your community, and discuss the matter with the people there.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
187 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Chana Ruschinek Melbourne Australia March 23, 2017

Why would anyone want to tell their child they have limitations? Not everyone is in the top 100% . People with disabilities are human beings first and their disabilities are secondary. Anyone who thinks the opposite has a very skewed mind. I've learnt more from being a parent of a child with a disability than I learnt in school or university. After all we're all children from the one G-d. Reply

Ann March 21, 2017

On International Down Syndrome Day B'H, shalom Rabbi Freeman. Yours has got to be the best response to the issue of aborting unborn children I've ever read. Thank you so much for using your gift as a writer to help others see things clearly and with blessing. Reply

jorge alberto nuñez cuevas Tijuana June 9, 2015

it's just heartbreaking to not have words to describe to a child its limitations when those go below those of average people, everybody wants to be above the average, otherwise it's just unacceptable or considered mediocrity Reply

Elaine Thompson Alpena June 9, 2015

I am embarrassed that some people justify deciding into existence another person in terms of utility--what he or she contributes to the family's awareness and sensitivity to others. In short, what they can do for us. A certain number of humans will randomly appear (be born) short-changed, if I may say so, and we say it is "natural." Whatever the circumstances, we should do everything possible to make a good life for them within the family if possible. But, not regard them for what they can do for us. (Disclosure: I have not had a Down Syndrome child.) Reply

Frank Vespe East Hampton, NY via chabadofeastend.com June 8, 2015

When I prepare for one of my many Mitzvah video shoots, my 24 year-old son with Down Syndrome brings my bags to my car; when I need help pushing the lumber cart in Home Depot, my Down Syndrome son gladly pushes it and loads the wood in my CRV and when I ruptured a lower disc, my Down Syndrome son helped me walk around the house..My three other kids were playing Call of Duty, watching the Yankee game on his iPhone and going with her boyfriend to Jones Beach.... Reply

Elaine Thompson Alpena February 15, 2015

To "Anonymous" who suggested that nature selects the strongest off-spring to survive, I dared not go there. Nature is random, though, and does not quite "select" as if human, but still does select. We humans think we are a shade above animal behavior and nature, but we aren't; we are part of the system. We kill off large numbers of people in war, don't we? Reply

Anonymous February 11, 2015

I would like to approach the Down syndrome issue in another angle - Nature's Selection. In animal kingdom, animals after giving birth, will abandon the young which appeared sickly and least likely to survive. They will reserve their milk for the stronger ones.

Anyone ever thought of why Down Syndrome babies are born with a whole array of medical problems? Maybe they are never meant to be God's blessing. Nature put in these medical condition so that they can die. It is we humans with our medical technology that tried to change Nature's way by intervening. Reply

Anonymous February 11, 2015

Don't feel guilty if you think it is better to abort. Wha will happen to the Downs child after you and your spouse pass on? You cannot assume your other children will take up the task of caring for him/her as they have their own lives. If one of your children really like the Downs child and truly want to care for him/her till the day he/she passes on, this child is likely to be very unattractive to anyone looking for a marriage partner. Just think, anyone who have a choice in selecting his marriage partner will not want one that comes with such a burden in tow. You have to be realistic about it. Not everyone loves DS people in their families. People can say "we love Down Syndrome children". "Down syndrome children are God's blessing", "there should be more DS people' in this world". I think they left out the second part of the sentence "but not one in my family " Reply

Anonymous Tucson June 12, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

If you aren't a nurturing person, then a Down syndrome child is definitely not for you. If you choose to be a non-nurturing sort of person, though, that is not a great recommendation about you. Reply

Frank Vespe via chabadofeastend.com October 5, 2014

Down Syndrome baby "After having one child with Down Syndrome," my wife's GYN reminded us three times, "the risk of having another is greatly increased," he continued. "I see the nuchal folds on the neck of your daughter in the sonogram are quite pronounced, so you might want to make plans should she have Downs like your first son," he said.
"Well," I said sitting back in the chair in his private office, "I guess I'll only need three more children with Downs to form a basketball team."
(She is 19 now and not with Downs.) Reply

Chana Ruschinek Melbourne, Australia October 4, 2014

I am shocked at some of the comments. I am the mother of 31 year old twins,1 with Down Syndrome. She was born with cataracts on both eyes. She has had 28 operations.When she was 10 we were told she was blind in her left eye and legally blind in right eye as well as Glaucoma. Today she works in her father's Accounting Practice up to 8 hours a week with payment.
She also volunteers for 2 hours in aged care and 2 hours in an op shop each week. She also attends drama groups 2 days per week. She has been asked to perform solo publicly in her drama group on occasion. She has recently been offered a another volunteer position in a local creche.

She has 4 siblings and 21 nieces and nephews.

Life is what you make of it.

To Ruth Sarah bas Chana and Dov we love you and are proud of you. Reply

Anonymous Santa Clarita October 3, 2014

My name is Shawna Tice and when my mother was pregnant with me, the doctor told her I would be Down's Syndrome and asked if she wanted to abort me. My mother said no and I am now a perfectly healthy, 18 year-old in nursing school and very thankful I was given the chance to live :) Reply

Frank Vespe via chabadofeastend.com August 11, 2014

Some baseball players can never hit a low and away curve; others adapt and get a little closer to the plate and leaned into it...Instead of striking out, I adapted and leaned into having a Down Syndrome child. Reply

jorge alberto nuñez cuevas August 11, 2014

well, many challenges are not for everyone, and how it works depend too much on the parents, some times it's better to have the right to chose over some things Reply

Elaine Thompson August 11, 2014

Mr. Vespe writes a touching account of his Down Syn. son. Yet, it is one of what the child can do for the family, not what the child would have chosen had he had a chance. People can sing of all the wonderful things the child has done for the family-- taught them compassion and this and that, but it always ends up some sort of a rationalization in the form of what the child can do for the family-- not what the Down Syn. child would choose for himself if he'd had anything to say about it. Would a parent himself or herself choose to be born a Down's child? Of course not. We do, however, take good care of whatever children we get, and make possible the best life we can for them. But to choose that life for another-- as a gift from God, no less-- I understand but question the response and motives. Reply

Frank Vespe NY via chabadofeastend.com August 8, 2014

another note.... My wife was 29 and the Fetal Beta Protein Test came up negative so we never thought of Amnio, even though they told us the odds were 1/100 of a miscarriage, we didn't do it. When my son was born, medical professionals advised us strongly on giving him up for adoption and so I told my wife, "Let's give it a month, and if he's too much to handle, I'll wrap him in a blanket, place him in a big empty egg crate, leave him in front of the church down the block, pound on the door, and run away as fast as I could."...Fast forward 24 years:
My Down Syndrome son is the only of my four kids who helps me load lumber at Home Depot, helps me carry groceries, and walks besides me three miles every night, as the others play X-Box, hang out at the beach and would rather play Talisman than play catch with their dad....
That's some Down Syndrome kid. Reply

Ginny Lynch Eaton, Colorado August 7, 2014

There is fear in facing the challenges of parenting. But love conquers fear. I can not blame you for the fear. But this child is a blessing from God, just like your other children. Just like your other children, this child will bring with him or her unique gifts, joys, challenges, and lessons. Just like your other children, you will love this precious child, and be thankful for the joy he brings to you and all your other children. They will learn how to be his teacher and defender. They will celebrate with pride, this sister or brother's accomplishments with greater joy. They will learn compassion and loyalty, and respect for others who are different from them. I think your whole family will lose, if you choose to end this baby's life. Choose to embrace this little one, and I believe the love and joy and blessing will be multiplied to you and your entire family. I know you already love this child. I pray God will bless you and your family...embrace your little one. Reply

Frank Vespe via chabadofeastend.com June 29, 2014

Not surprisingly "Anonymous" didn't use her real name as her note is perhaps the most outlandish post I've ever read about people with Downs Syndrome. Reply

Anonymous Salt Lake City June 19, 2014

Abort The child is unborn and it is just a body. I would abort so it's soul could escape that fate and enter another more healthy body. I feel that the quality of life for everyone involved including the child is diminished when the child isn't given every opportunity including health.
I have a family member with down syndrome and he has been a drain on everyone his entire life.
I am also pro choice and have had an abortion so I do understand what it is like. It really isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It's your life not theirs. You shouldn't feel forced into feeling bad when you and only you know what is best for you and the child. Reply

Elaine Thompson March 23, 2014

What kind of society are we? One who cares not for the child after it is born, or the person who has to take care of this child who eventually grows up. Unless one is a martyr-- then give your life of 24 hours a day caring for someone.... I visited a nursing home a few years ago and when I was about to leave, blocking the doorway, on the floor, was an adult Down syndrome man. I felt so sorry for him, in that he had probably outlived his parents. So easy to choose for somebody else what their life will be. Reply

jorge alberto nuñez cuevas March 20, 2014

for me it would be so simple, human beings must have this 2 characteristics:

1.-be able to have a meaningful adult life
2.-be capable to live independently in adulthood

without those characteristics it's redoubtably that he would bring something good to his society, because we live in society, and raising a child should be also for the good of the family and the society

disabilities should be prevented as well as tolerated, should a woman be considered a monster if she aborts a child with problems she wouldn't be capable to help with because of some situation like poverty or a disability of herself?, what kind of society we live in? Reply