'Thinking' Catholics

An old slur that never dies

A few months ago, I read a wonderful story ("The Perfect Child," London Sunday Telegraph, March 5) about a woman in England named Caroline Armstrong-Jones. The sister-in-law of Lord Snowden and the wife of one of Britain’s wealthiest businessmen, she was in the news not because of her connections or her lifestyle, but because of her children. Her daughter, India, age three, had been born with Down syndrome. During her second pregnancy, Armstrong-Jones had been put under enormous pressure to have amniocentesis done to determine whether this child would be similarly afflicted, with the obvious assumption that she would then abort him if he were.

Her reaction to this suggestion was an incredulity that was both astonishing and delightful: how could anyone, she asked in so many words, imply that there was anything wrong with India? And were she to abort India’s little brother if he happened to be like her, wouldn’t she be rejecting India as well?

The article is worth reading just for the confident and articulate way in which Armstrong-Jones demolishes every argument brought against her position, but what I found more interesting was the bias of the journalist who wrote the piece.

Although he obviously found his subject both impressive and appealing, there was one little problem with her argument: Armstrong-Jones is a Catholic. To protect her from the usual treatment an anti-abortion Catholic can expect...

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.