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September 15, 2005

Right -- but for the wrong reason

Continuing the blog about the Roberts hearing:
The exchange below (you can get the whole thing from the transcript) took place during Wednesday's hearing. This kind of attitude is unfortunately all too common -- what I'd characterize as paternalism under the banner of rights. The reader who alerted us to Sen. Sam Brownback's (R.-KS) little question-cum-sermon section, says, "I'm all for saying that people shouldn't have abortions just because their fetus has a disability (though I don't know that it makes sense to put that in a law), but shouldn't the reason have something to do with the respect people with disabilities are owed as people, not how good people with disabilities can make everyone else feel about themselves? "

BROWNBACK: .... And I want to take another point on that to tell you -- we talked a lot about the disability community, and well we should, and the protection needed for the disability community. And that's important, because I think it really helps people that need help, but it helps the rest of us to be much more human and caring.
Senator Kennedy is helping me with a bill because a number of children never get here that have disabilities. Unborn children prenatally diagnosed with Down's Syndrome and other disabilities -- I don't know if you know this, but there was a recent analysis, and 80 percent to 90 percent of children prenatally diagnosed with Down's Syndrome never get here -- never get here. They're aborted in the system.
And people just say: Look, this child's got difficulties. And we even have waiting lists in America of people, today, willing to adopt children with Down's Syndrome. And we will protect that child -- as well we should, under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other issues -- when they get here.
But so much of the time, and with our increased ability of genetic testing, they don't get here. Diagnosed in the womb, system that encourages this child to be destroyed at that stage -- and this is all in the records.
And we are the poorer for it as a society.
All the members of this body know a young man with Down's Syndrome named Jimmy. Maybe you've met him, even. He runs the elevator that takes the senators up and down on the Senate floors. His warm smile welcomes us every day. We're a better body for him.
He told me the other day -- he frequently gives me a hug in the elevator afterwards. I know he does Senator Hatch often, too, who kindly gives him ties, some of which I question the taste of, Orrin...
... but he kindly gives ties.
HATCH: It doesn't have to get personal...
BROWNBACK: And Jimmy said to me the other day after he hugged me; he said Shhh, don't tell my supervisor. They're telling me I'm hugging too many people.
BROWNBACK: And, yet, we're ennobled by him and what he does and how he lifts up our humanity and 80 to 90 percent of the kids in this country like Jimmy never get here.
What does that do to us? What does that say about us. And I would just ask you, Judge Roberts, to consider -- and probably you can't answer here today, whether the individuals with disabilities have the same constitutional rights that you and I share while they're in the womb.
"I wonder how old Jimmy is?" our reader asked.

Today Beverly Jones makes her statement to the Committee. You can read it here. Jones was one of the plaintiffs in the Tennessee v. Lane suit. When that decision came down, everybody seemed to understand how awful it is for a wheelchair user not to get into a courtroom. Let's see what Roberts might have to say about that. And let's see if Jones's testimony forces the media to finally write about disability issues in this Confirmation Circus.

Posted by mjohnson at September 15, 2005 09:24 AM