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Abort Down Syndrome Baby?

Abort Down Syndrome Baby?

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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.
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.
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Discussion (184)
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
jorge alberto nuñez cuevas
Tijuana
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.)
Elaine Thompson
Alpena
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....
Frank Vespe
East Hampton, NY
chabadofeastend.com
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?
Elaine Thompson
Alpena
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.
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 "
Anonymous
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.)
Frank Vespe
chabadofeastend.com
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.
Chana Ruschinek
Melbourne, Australia
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 :)
Anonymous
Santa Clarita
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.
Frank Vespe
chabadofeastend.com
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