How heartening it is to scc the needs of the mentally handieapped being increasingly recognised. Like the Catholic organisations mentioned in your report of March 16, "Women for Life" also endorse the recommendations that the handicapped move out from hospitals where possible into community homes. and have "a normal pattern of life . . treated as individuals".
Unless their right to life is respected, however, all these pious hopes are meaningless, serving only to accentuate our collective
"doublethink" and perhaps to dull our collective conscience, for this primary right of all human beings is being increasingly eroded where the handicapped are concerned.
Despite warnings from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that it is currently too dangerous for widespread implementation, prenatal diagnosis of handicap by amniocentesis is being i established n area after area. Fluid is withdrawn from the womb with a needle at 16 weeks of pregnancy or after, and analysis can show mongolism, spina bifida, anencephaly, and the sex of the child.
Sometimes babies are aborted after a "false positive" result: sometimes "false negatives" occur, The test cannot detect the degree of handicap – some quite mildly handicapped babies are being aborted — and it cannot tell the difference between spina bifida and anencephaly which is always fatal.
At least 1 per cent of amniocenteses result in miscarriage, and 1 per cent of mothers have severe bleeding before birth; I per cent of infants have respiratory complications at birth, and I per cent have severe deformities such as clubfoot and dislocation of the hip. All these effects were documented in the British Medical Journal of December 16, 1978, and there are others.
Women who have had or been in contact with German measles are being urged to have abortions, and called ''freakish" or "irresponsible" if they refuse. One woman I heard of recently had been told her child had a one-in-ten chance of being deaf — and her doctor wanted her to decide on abortion.
What a shame the Catholic organisations for the handica eped did not go further in their splendid affirmation of handicapped rights and make it an occasion to condemn utterly all the homicides. Until we all speak out on this, whether Christians or non-believers, our protestations of care will sound hollow to the "handicapped" themselves. Debby Sariders Secretary, Women for Life Member of National Society lor Mentally Handicapped Children. London. W2