Friday, May 23, 2014

Autism is NOT a Punishment

I read a piece on Jezabel today which set my blood to boiling. It was about how Toni Braxton wrote in her memoir that she believed that God gave her son Autism as punishment for having an abortion earlier in life. No, really. Her exact words:

"I was suddenly faced with a choice I'd never thought I'd have to make. Amid my major misgivings about abortion, I eventually made the gut-wrenching decision… In my heart, I believed I had taken a life — an action that I thought God might one day punish me for. … My initial rage was quickly followed by another strong emotion: guilt. I knew I'd taken a life… I believed God's payback was to give my son autism."

You can read the Jezabel piece here. 

I'm having trouble finding the words to express how I feel about this. I can't understand how a mother could possibly say something so ignorant and hurtful about her child. Autism is not a "punishment." It just IS. 1 in 68 kids is on the spectrum. My youngest son is one of them. I cannot even FATHOM viewing him or his differences as a "payback" for something I did. My son is one of the greatest gifts of my life, and his Autism is a huge part of who he is. He is funny and smart and quirky and charming and one of best things that has ever happened to me. Being his mother and helping him face his challenges has taught me so much and has made me a better person. That is not a punishment. That is a GIFT. A wonderful, beautiful gift. 

And can we talk about how this affects her son? How will he feel if he ever reads or hears his mother's words? Every child deserves to feel like the greatest blessing of their parents' life. They should never feel like who they are is a punishment or payback for their parents' perceived sins. Toni Braxton should be deeply ashamed of herself. 

Furthermore... can we discuss the absolutely flawed logic in her statements? Like how thousands of women make the choice to terminate pregnancies and then go on to have perfectly healthy, wonderful children and happy wonderful lives later on? And how many women who would never have an abortion give birth to children with a variety of medical, emotional, and developmental disabilities every year? 

We ALL have regrets of one kind or another about decisions we've made in the past. That is part of being human. I cannot imagine what it must be like to believe in a God that would punish us for making a mistake, or for doing what we thought, at the time, was the best thing. For that, I feel sorry for Ms. Braxton. That's not the kind of God I would want in my life. But most of all, I feel sorry for her beautiful, remarkable child. He deserves better. 

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