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Should a Down's Syndrome Teenager Keep Her Baby?
By Moira McMahon, Researcher
In episode 415, "Two Steps Back," Sam and Naomi face tough decisions when a mother wants her daughter to have an abortion.
Erin George and her daughter, Tanya, arrive at Oceanside Wellness because Tanya has been complaining of stomach cramps. Erin's worst fears are confirmed when Sam discovers that Tanya is pregnant. Tanya is just a teenager, and this pregnancy is not planned. This would be complicated enough without an even larger factor—Tanya has Down's Syndrome.
Erin has been taking care of her daughter for seventeen years. It's been a huge job to teach Tanya the basics of caring for herself. And though some Down's Syndrome adults can live semi-independently in homes or communities set up for their needs, Erin has grave reservations about Tanya's ability to take care of a newborn.
The father of the baby, Ricky, has severe learning disabilities. When he finds out Tanya is pregnant, he's overjoyed. He's willing to learn everything they'll both need to know to be good parents. But Erin knows that despite their willingness, she will be the primary caregiver their child. And because of her daughter's genetic condition, the child has a fifty percent chance of having Down's Syndrome. Erin is sure she can't raise another special needs child and thinks it might be better if Tanya has an abortion.
Naomi, who is against abortion, is hoping that Erin, Tanya and Ricky can raise the child together. Naomi offers to do a CVS test to find out if Tanya's baby has Down's Syndrome. When the test comes back clear, Naomi hopes that it will sway Erin to let Tanya have the baby. Perhaps Erin can re-experience motherhood through Tanya's child. Sam doesn't think that Naomi should put pressure on Erin to keep her daughter's child just because Naomi is grateful her own daughter didn't abort their grandchild. Noami knows the decision is ultimately up to Tanya. So, armed with the CVS test results, she goes to Erin's house to give her the news that Tanya's baby is genetically normal.
When Sam and Naomi arrive, it's too late. Erin has taken Tanya to get an abortion that morning. Erin just couldn't raise another child on top of taking care of the needs of her mentally disabled daughter. Though other cases have been challenged in court, Erin did have the legal right to make this medical decision for Tanya.
But did Erin do the right thing?
Shouldn't Tanya have a say over her own body?
What would YOU do?