Shouldn’t Abortion be Allowed for Serious or Fatal Birth Defects?

“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members.”

~Pope Saint John Paul II1

Of the many reasons that women give for having abortions, the justification of birth defects is the most understandable, especially if the child is not expected to live. Women considering abortion for fatal or serious birth defects want to spare their unborn children the suffering that results from such problems.

Try to imagine for just for a moment the heartbreak of a young couple discovering that their unborn child faces a serious or fatal birth defect, such as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). After the initial shock, they quickly realize that many tough obstacles lay ahead, problems that other parents just don’t have to face.

One young husband and wife we know faced this tragedy a few years ago. In addition to hearing that their preborn baby had HLHS, the mother was immediately put on full bed rest due to placenta previa. Her husband worked himself to near-exhaustion cooking all of their meals, cleaning the house, caring for their very active toddler, commuting, and working a full-time job. They did everything they could to make sure their baby would be born large enough so that she could survive the surgeries needed to heal her “tiny broken heart.”

After four months of this grueling pilgrimage, the young wife — our daughter-in-law, Gina — gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Our son Paul baptized her Phoebe Leilani, “Flower of Heaven.” Phoebe, at just over two pounds, was too small for heart surgery. So Paul and Gina and their son Jonah loved her with all their hearts during her short time on this earth. When Paul saw the sorrow of my wife Kathy and I as we visited them in the hospital room, he said words we can never forget: “You guys know — It’s always a great day when a baby is born.”

After only two hours of life, Phoebe passed from the loving arms of her parents into the loving arms of God. Our pastor, Father Jerome Fasano of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church here in Front Royal, said a wonderful funeral Mass for her and was present with many others from our parish as she was laid to rest on the Furtado family farm.

Our son and his wife gave all of us a wonderful example of the only human, the only humane, the only holy course of action to take when caring for a very sick preborn baby. For a child with the most severe of disabilities, we must ask ourselves which is the most loving way to deal with the situation: To allow the child to die in the loving arms of his parents or in agony at the hands of the abortionist’s merciless, razor-sharp surgical instruments?

Why Does Society Reject the “Imperfect”?

While our world celebrates beauty and perfection, many of us are losing our ability to see the loveliness in the face of a disabled child who may not meet our standards of beauty. To kill someone because he or she is less than perfect is to reject the battered and marred face of Christ as well. Truly, He was most beautiful when He suffered for us, just as parents are most beautiful when they suffer and sacrifice for the sake of their disabled child.

To judge someone by his or her disabilities is to see that person as a simple material good, not as a human being with intrinsic worth. Our Lord Jesus Christ and His saints embraced and healed the poor, the disabled, the deformed, the diseased. If we are to follow His example, we must do the same. To have an abortion because of birth defects is to reject the worth of the child as loved by God.

Abortion Because of Birth Defects? A Story and Statistics

Society in general is finding it easier and easier to dispose of the disabled. A few decades ago, we cared for those weaker than ourselves. Now, genetic testing is leading to more and more eugenic abortion for smaller and less important disabilities, such as deafness or cleft palate. In fact, more than a million babies worldwide are aborted each year because of the dreaded “disability” of being female!

No matter how strictly lawmakers draw up exceptions, the abortionists will always construct elaborate and dishonest rationales to bypass them. Phill Kline, former attorney general of Kansas, explained how third-trimester abortionist George Tiller abused the law:

We had at one point an exception that allowed late-term abortions on viable children if there was a severe fetal anomaly.  Dr. Tiller found a “severe fetal anomaly’ in instances involving cleft palate, Down syndrome, and healthy twins….The logic of it is clear: Twins are an anomaly, are they not? And they can have a severe economic impact on the family. That’s what happens to the law when you don’t believe in truth.2

Rarity of Severe Birth Defects

Most expectant wives and their husbands naturally worry at least a little bit about the possibility of serious birth defects, but in reality, they are quite rare.

Midwife checks newborn baby heartbeat

Six states have surveyed 2.44 million women over the time period 1996-2020 who had abortions and found that only 0.69% chose abortion because of birth defects.3 And this number of babies with birth defects is probably overestimated, since we have heard many stories about women who were frightened by stories from their doctors about how badly their unborn babies were handicapped — only to find that their newborns were perfectly healthy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has determined that 16-year-old girls giving birth have a 1 in 570 chance of having a baby with a serious or fatal birth defect. In other words, 99.83% of their babies are born perfectly healthy. As the mother’s age increases, the incidence of serious or fatal birth defects rises, but still remains small. At the age of 35, pregnant mothers can expect a 99.48% probability of having a perfectly healthy baby, and at 40, the probability is 98.48%.4

Children with Birth Defects Can Be Happy

One of the greatest fears that older expectant parents have is the possibility of Down syndrome. They think that having such a child will make their lives miserable. This widespread attitude means that about 90% of all diagnoses for preborn children with DS end in abortion. And some nations actually boast that they have completely eliminated Down syndrome — by killing all of the people who have it!5

But our greatest hope should be that our children are happy, and as anyone who has lived with or worked with children with Down syndrome knows, those with Down’s tend to be much happier than those reading this article right now. Abortion because of birth defects (eugenic abortion) such as Down’s kills a child who has an overwhelmingly probable chance of being very happy:6

  • A major 2011 study of the attitudes of people with Down syndrome and their families, published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, revealed that 99% of parents loved their DS son or daughter, 97% were proud of them, and 79% felt their outlook on life was more positive because of them. Only 5% were embarrassed by them and a mere 4% regretted having them.
  • Another study found that 99% of people with Down syndrome were happy with their lives, making them the happiest identifiable group of human beings in existence.  97% liked who they are, 96% liked how they look, and 86% easily made friends.
  • 96% of their brothers and sisters said they loved their sibling with DS, and 94% said that they were proud of their brother or sister with Down syndrome.  88% felt they were better people because of their sibling with DS. Less than 10% felt embarrassed, and less than 5% expressed a desire to “trade their sibling in” for a “normal” brother or sister.

a baby with down syndrome; should we allow abortion for birth defects?

Interestingly, the pool of articles extolling the happy natures of people with Down syndrome seems to have dried up completely since about 2011. One possible theory is that the corrupt media is obviously trying to promote taxpayer-funded abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason at all, and its members do not want to convey the impression that any abortion might be inappropriate. After all, nobody has provided any evidence that shows that Down syndrome people are unhappy, yet the narrative has completely changed. This is a sure sign of a change in priorities, not a change in evidence.

Abortion for Birth Defects: Rejecting Human Children

A child with a birth defect is still a child — no matter how serious his or her disability. We poor human beings, with our limited intelligence and vision, cannot even begin to perceive the intricacies of God’s plans for our own lives, let alone His intentions for a child who has not even been born yet.

God tells us in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you.”

A disability — even a serious one — does not make a person any less human. This means that committing abortion because of birth defects — which is nothing more than an echo of the Nazi eugenics program — can never be justified.


Shall We Accept Disabled Children?

Disabled children present us with a difficult problem. Society’s answer to this problem will decide whether we truly reflect the glory of God in our families and in our society. If we welcome the child who is “less than perfect” in either his appearance or his abilities, then we are more truly a human — and Godly — people. To have an abortion because of birth defects is to reject the child in our midst, God’s gift to us — therefore rejecting God Himself.

Blessed Margaret of Castello, patroness of the disabled, pray for us!

+ Endnotes

[1] Pope John Paul II, address to the Ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See, May 25, 2000.

[2] Phill Kline, former Attorney General of Kansas, quoted in Kathleen Gilbert. “Late-Term Healthy Twins Counted as ‘Severe Fetal Anomaly’ for Abortionist Tiller: Former Prosecutor.” LifeSite Daily News, May 9, 2012.

[3] Tabulation of reports on “Induced Termination of Pregnancy” from Florida (1998-2020), Louisiana (1996-2018), Minnesota (1999-2019), Nebraska (2001-2019), South Dakota (1999-2019), and Utah (1996-2018). See

[4] American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Patient Education Pamphlet entitled “Pregnancy and Genetic Disorders.”

[5] Kel Falkenstein. “This Nation Brags How It has Aborted 100% of the Babies with Down Syndrome.”, February 28, 2017.

[6] G. Skotko, S.P Levine and R. Goldstein. “Having a Son or Daughter with Down Syndrome: Perspectives from Mothers and Fathers.” American Journal of Medical Genetics, 2011 [Part A], pages 2,335-2,347; B.G. Skotko, S.P Levine and R. Goldstein. “Self-Perceptions from People with Down Syndrome.” American Journal of Medical Genetics, 2011 [Part A], pages 2,360-2,369; B.G. Skotko, S.P Levine and R. Goldstein. “Having a Brother or Sister with Down Syndrome: Perspectives from Siblings.” American Journal of Medical Genetics, 2011 [Part A], pages 2,348-2,359.

Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.


  1. Jenna on October 5, 2023 at 11:02 AM

    The fact of the matter is that you don’t have the “right” to play God. If a child is unwanted, disabled, or hated. It does not give ANYONE the right to murder him/her, even their parents. It’s murder. Period. There are options out there. Most of which are provided to you by the “so called Christian’s” as you like to put it. Many Christians who do not personally take in all of the unwanted children of the world work hard and donate a lot of time, money, and resources to these causes. The government is the one shutting those down. Life is not easy and nobody promised it would be. Life’s not easy for Christian’s either like you all seem to think it is. We experience death, loss, and suffering all of the time. The Bible is full of stories of loss and suffering. You don’t think we question God when life gets hard and uncomfortable? We sure as heck are not perfect and those claiming to be perfect are not true Christians. nobody is perfect except Jesus. We are all human beings. It’s called faith when we don’t understand but choose to believe that God has a greater purpose that we can’t wrap our head around. We know this suffering will be over one day. There will be no more tears and that’s where you find hope. Do you think Jesus had an easy life? No he had the hardest and guess who watched him suffer. God. God loves us so much, that He sent His own son here to SUFFER greatly for us so that we can have eternity with Him. The people of the day also HATED Jesus, they also didn’t WANT Him, they also DEHUMANIZED Him. Sounds familiar to how people see these children.
    Pain and suffering are a burden we ALL bare living in a fallen world because of original sin. Brothers and sisters, this life will end soon. An eternity without pain and suffering is available to all of us if we choose to follow Jesus Christ who did all the suffering for us. Abortion is never the answer. Take all of this from someone who has experienced loss of children and with that heartache, anger, disobedience to God, questioning Him and His goodness. I’m not worthy, but Jesus paid the price for me, just like he has for all of you if you choose to follow Jesus Christ. He is an awesome, good, and merciful God. God Bless you all.

  2. Helen on July 16, 2022 at 7:22 PM

    You people force parents to torture their own babies. I think of what Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” You, forcing parents to torture their own babies, is disgusting. May God forgive you. I don’t think the babies can.

    • Andrew James Patton on July 30, 2022 at 11:09 PM

      Jesus accepted death on a cross, with all the pain and humiliation that entails, in order that the world might live. God is not asking any more of these parents than He gave. And make no mistake, most of us will die in agony, because that is the nature of terminal illnesses, that at the end, pain becomes extreme. How it compares to crucifixion, I cannot know, but it’s not that different from the disabled newborn who lives only a short time. We all must die, and it will probably be very painful, but those who take poison to shirk that cross will suffer everlasting fire.

  3. Erma Saleermassale on August 18, 2021 at 11:07 AM

    What do pastor’s say to parents of severe. deformed children in regards to Jeremiah verse in bible?

  4. Lacey Sheridan on August 6, 2019 at 5:08 PM

    This is a personal decision, of course, and I realize that abortion is unacceptable in your religion. But if I live to be 100, I will never understand carrying to term a child that will only live for hours. To put yourself through that nightmare! Your God demands too much.

    • HLI Staff on August 20, 2019 at 9:18 AM

      Lacey, thank you for your response, which is often felt by mothers who fear the pain of watching their baby suffer or die. But if you are carrying a child, can you imagine that child experiencing terrible pain and death by abortion at the hands of his mother, when he could have died peacefully in her arms? For instance, amniocentesis is done 15-20 weeks into the pregnancy. A baby by 20 weeks is aborted by having the brain matter “evacuated” and the limbs pulled out one by one. People sometimes forget about the baby’s suffering, too. God bless.

      • Sarah on October 15, 2019 at 4:43 AM

        Great article!

        I am starting to see that life is the better option.

  5. Ann Morgan on July 16, 2019 at 2:32 AM

    Are you willing to emulate Christ, step up, and provide lifelong care for the disabled? Or do you just parade your holiness, gaze at cute pictures of fetuses, and demand that someone ELSE, the parents, the taxpayers, the innocent siblings, just not YOU, be nailed to that particular cross?

    • HLI Staff on July 25, 2019 at 9:24 AM

      Hello Ann. Who do you think started the first hospitals, orphanages, etc? The Catholic Church is the LARGEST non-profit in the world providing help in these cases, with 18,000 clinics, 16,000 for elderly/special needs, 5500 hospitals and the majority in developing countries. There is absolutely no reason to abort a child. Should you or the party in question not wish to raise a disabled child, bring it to us. That child will be given the care they need. That is, as long as cities like Philadelphia stop taking us to court to shut down our foster care when there is no one else to provide it. One does not kill someone who is disabled because they do not want to be bothered. That is for God, not you or I, to decide.

      • Dee on May 23, 2022 at 1:28 PM

        God gave mankind free will, and a woman’s decisions to have an abortion is part of her free will. If an abortion is wrong in the eyes God, then that sin or wrongdoing is between a woman and her religion/God. The bible says, “let those without sin cast the first stone.” Women should not be forced to give birth to an unwanted child such as rape/incest or infants with severe birth defects. You can’t force anyone to become a loving or a good parent and the decision to go through with a pregnancy should be a woman’s choice it’s her body and her fetus. If she’s Christian, then she can ask forgiveness and God is in the forgiving business. No-one is exempt from sin and any sinner can repent and be forgiven. We all know that some parents should never have become parents and there are plenty of children in the world who are suffering. Why add more children to the suffering list to be brought up in homes of poverty, in single parent’s households, addictions as newborns, who will most likely wind up dead or in the prison system. This will be the story for many of them who live in poverty.

        • HLI Staff on June 1, 2022 at 10:35 AM

          We differ, Dee. Killing another innocent human being is not between a woman and her God only, there is the unborn child to consider. Following your logic, any crime or wrongdoing should be allowed by law because it’s a matter of free will, something between a person and his God, subject to forgiveness at some point. For instance, you wouldn’t allow for the gunning down of school children in their classrooms, would you, because it’s a only a matter between the shooter and his God? If parents cannot or do not want to parent the child they have conceived, there are plenty of loving couples who are willing to adopt. It is far more compassionate to adopt an “unwanted” child than it is to end her life.

  6. Eric Stelter on May 27, 2019 at 1:55 AM

    The figures reported here for the Rarity of Severe Birth Defects averaging about 0.5% are incorrect and misleading. The CDC reports that “Major structural or genetic birth defects affect approximately 3% of births in the United States” See “Update on Overall Prevalence of Major Birth Defects — Atlanta, Georgia, 1978–2005” at Please include these numbers and this reference on your webpage. You and I both have an obligation to God to spread the truth. The 3% birth defect rate reported by CDC is greater than 1 in 30 pregnancies, not even accounting for, regrettably and tragically, miscarriages and abortions. This 3% does not seem to be the “Hand of God” any more than the approximately 35% to 40% chance that we will get cancer in our lifetimes. And, if Zika virus spreads, the rate of birth defects may rise much more. These are difficult issues, to be sure. May God be with you.

    • HLI Staff on June 26, 2019 at 9:13 AM

      Eric, thank you for your feedback, but we are confused. Nowhere in this article does it state birth defects in the United States average 0.5%. We do appreciate the reference, but are naturally hesitant to use this, as the numbers are 14 years or more old. A more recent document from 2014 seems to correlate, so we are handing to our researcher for an update. Thanks and God bless.

  7. mary peck on May 18, 2019 at 1:58 PM

    30 years ago we still sent some of our disabled to institutions. It’s not just about the child’s quality of life. There are higher functioning people with Down’s Syndrome and autism who lead happy and productive lives: they have jobs, friends, etc. There are other developmentally disabled people in wheelchairs who require assistance 24/7, have seizures and are in pain. Do you really want your child to suffer? It’s easy to say “have the baby” when you are a financially well off male and it is not your family. By your standards, I’m in the less that 1 percent because I had a child with a disability at age 28. My husband was 31. We were in excellent health, I had prenatal care, took vitamins, didn’t smoke, drink, etc. We are good people so it’s not “karma” either. We don’t feel “special”; we feel cheated. I am still angry at God because I couldn’t understand why he took his anger out on my innocent child. Most people, especially so-called “Christians”, are not accepting of people with disabilities and never will be.

    • HLI Staff on May 21, 2019 at 12:58 PM

      Thanks for being so open, Mary. God always does what is “best” but we often don’t understand His reasoning; it’s part of the mystery of Faith we discover only in the next life. If people are unkind or uncaring, I am sure you fight for your child! But don’t be angry at God, try to work through it with prayer and maybe spiritual counseling. The Church says ALL people are equal in the eyes of God, being made in His image and conceived with him joining in that moment with the parents to bring life into the world. And remember, if you are Catholic, you know that suffering is of IMMENSE value in the Church. We put that suffering up on the altar, so to speak, unite our suffering with Christ’s on the cross and his eternal sacrifice at each mass, and this earns immense graces because we offer it to Him. Offer each moment to God, day by day, and you will see and feel the rewards. We will offer our prayers for all of you, too.

      • S. Davis on September 13, 2022 at 9:41 PM

        Let’s not be naive. There are so many problems with your argument above. For example, many disabled children do not have loving parents. They may be abandoned at birth to the government, or, even worse, at an older age after being abused and neglected. Also government foster care where children have no permanent home and have to live on welfare can be very traumatic. Once a child is past toddler stage it is difficult to find loving adoptive parents — especially if the child is disabled. Above all really, is the money issue. Our government is so stingy about helping disabled children. I don’t like abortion, but we need more generous government and other aid society help and much better foster and adoption programs to help these children have happy lives.

    • Dee on May 23, 2022 at 1:00 PM

      I agree with you that most so-called “Christians are not accepting of people with disabilities.” A woman’s decision to have an abortion should be between her and God. No-one should force anyone to have a child and when a child has severe disabilities it’s wrong to force a woman to have that child. It’s her body, her child and ultimately should be her decision. Also, women who can afford it will always be able to have an abortion, anti-abortion laws affect women of color because they don’t have the funds to leave the state and pay for an abortion, and you can’t force anyone to become a good parent or forced someone to love an unwanted child. It would be difficult for a woman or young girl who was raped to accept or care for a child of rape and many children even when adopted as infants often will state they have abandonment issues.

    • Tom A. on June 29, 2022 at 11:06 AM

      Hello Mary,
      I am in the same situation. It’s easy for an outsider to say something if they aren’t in the same situation. However if you know your child will require care long after he has turned 18 and need to be watched after 24/7 its a reality you must face daily. To bath them, cook for them, clean them after they use the restroom, brush their teeth, etc. it becomes exhausting and frustrating to deal with. As you as a parent get older it becomes harder and the adult child gets stronger and more difficult to handle. Long term care becomes more of a reality as you become older and worry about taking care of them properly and safely as the parent gets older. You never get to do what you really want because you are attending to the child.

    • Brad on August 5, 2022 at 4:19 AM

      So it’s better to kill them out of convenience? The 2006 bill in UK covered this and 92% babies in the womb with Down’s Syndrome were aborted. Now the majority of people with Down’s syndrome do live great lives, and, as I’m sure you know, they can be much more pleasant people to be around than people without such conditions at times. Ultimately, if the justification for abortion is that they won’t have a normal life, the parents will struggle to look after them, or they are in pain, then you have just described millions of people who are not in the womb. Now let’s see what they would want.

      I have worked with disabled people too, and only left because the company was terrible, the people I cared for were like family, I loved it. So, let’s go ask people with disabilities what they would have preferred, and we can use their opinion to decide whether it is right to abort disabled people. “Hello X, would you prefer it if your mother and father had you terminated in the womb so you didn’t exist now?”.

      It’s worth noting that this type of behaviour is eugenics, and, I know talking about them is overused but this is true, this is exactly something which the nazi party used to encourage what they were doing. This is why Gobbles had to hide his disability.

      A quote about how the Nazi’s treated the disabled –
      “ They believed that they were genetically ‘impure’, and a financial burden on the state. Ultimately, this view led to the murder of thousands of disabled people [and] Sterilisation”

      I’m not saying people are nazis, nor do I believe that people are being evil when they do these things, I just think we are misinformed and don’t truly understand the issue. That’s not meant to look down on people either, just what I believe.

      Anyway, that’s just an opposing view. I appreciate the people that read it.

      I hope you have/had a good day.

    • Gerhardt Goeken on October 29, 2022 at 8:35 PM

      My question has to do with DNA. How badly must human DNA be corrupted before it is no longer “human?”

      The effects of depleted uranium munitions on the environment have been witnessed in places like Iraq and other places where Americans used these weapons. The severe birth deformities often resemble nothing like a normal human being.

      I can’t fathom why any one would force these unfortunate women to carry to term such creatures with denatured DNA.

      The act of fouling an eco-system with these kinds mutagens must constitute a crime against humanity. When peoples’ genes are damaged, the only way to prevent them from being carriers is to prevent them from having children. Where does abortion fit into this? Voluntary sterilization? The genocide is real. The question is whether religious dogma is prepared to deal with it.

      • HLI Staff on November 2, 2022 at 2:13 PM

        Dear Gerhardt,

        The Church is prepared to deal with genocide by her unchanging belief in the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death. This belief is a first principle and cannot be changed to suit circumstances–even unhappy ones. If an immutable first principle can be altered to adapt to changing situations (even bad ones!), then it is not a first principle after all and is instead something arbitrary (not true). Life is sacred whether that life is “perfect” in the eyes of the world or imperfect or even…”denatured.” Catholic dogma will defend the sacredness of human life, no matter what.

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