Morality and Children Question

This is a hypothetical question that my wife and I discussed last night, thought I would bring it up here. I’m not even sure it’s possible.

What if you and your wife were predisposed through genetics to having downs syndrome children? Say a 100% chance of every baby you conceived would have it. What would be the moral thing to do in that case?

I would think that it wouldn’t be moral to keep having children and bringing them into the world with that problem. I would be inclined to practice NFP to prevent it, or take other measures to prevent pregnancy. I understand being open to life, but is it right to continue to bring kids into this world with that problem. Or even any serious issue that you were very sure would have a serious health issue.

I don’t mean for this to be an abortion issue, I’m not talking about that. I mean preventing the pregnancy before hand.

I bring this up because my wife and I saw a woman with 4 children that all had downs syndrome. I’m not sure that they were all hers, and I suspect they weren’t all hers. But I’ve known people who have had multiple downs children and who were told they had an overwhelming chance of always having babies with downs. If you were in that position, would it be right to keep having children knowing they would turn out to have that issue?

My niece has downs, so I’m not discriminating against them, and I understand how special they are and that they are children of God, etc. And I understand when it happens and its not expected. I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t be born. What I’m asking is, if you know your children will have this issue for sure, should you continue having babies?

That is a tough one friend! One must put full faith in God! Jesus I Trust In You! On the other hand these are the most innocent of people. Those that have these children know they are not like everyone else. I have met and talked to some on a personal level and find that they are like a Child and have the purest of Hearts. They are the closest to Heaven. Though they are very strong and almost broke me in half when they give a hug, LOL, They are full of Love. Yes they are difficult to raise as I know some parents that have children with this, It takes a very special person to raise them also and what a Saint are the parents who Love them for who they are. Their Children!!! God Bless!!! Just remember God doesn’t make mistakes. They have a purpose in life as do we all!!!


Is a child with Downs less important or less human as a result of their condition? If not, then how could it ever be wrong to keep bringing such children into the world?

I think such a couple might legitimately opt to postpone pregnancy if they could not handle the increasing responsibilities. But I think we would be hardpressed to make the case that having more kids with Downs would somehow be immoral of them to do.

That’s Gods business not yours how many children with birth defects are or are not to be born. We have no control over that nor should we try too. That’s playing God. Hope I don’t sound cruel, but that’s my opinion. Any child is a blessing from God. He has a reason for everything that he allows to happen. It’s difficult for us to understand sometimes, but He knows why; and Our Lord is not capable of making mistakes. God bless you. Brenda


OP, what makes you think that it wouldn’t be moral to keep having children and bringing them into the world with that “problem”. Whose standard are you comparing them against? It slmost sounds like you don’t think these children can enjoy life. From what I have seen, they enjoy life more than most of us do.

Such would absolutely not be immoral to have kids. Although you could morally use NFP.


If it was me, I’d consult my priest and honor my vow to be open to life to the best of my abilities while continuing to pray to do God’s will.

I think that it’s a tough life for them, seeing what my niece goes through and what my sister goes through in raising her. And while I’m not arguing about their value as people, as I previously wrote, I do wonder if it is moral to continue to bring them into the world knowing their burden, and the burden they place on their parents.

Is that a good reason? I dunno. I’m not disparaging those who do have downs syndrome and how they live their lives. But I do feel that I would not in good conscience continue to bring children into the world that had that burden, and lived a hard life.

As I wrote, I do not think that abortion should come into the picture, etc. And I understand they have their own joy in life, all that people have written, etc. But I would not feel good about having 4 to 6 (or more) children all with that problem. I had a boss that I worked for whose wife was sterilized after they found out their kids would most likely all have downs after they had their first child.

Of course, I’m not in that position. I would have to do some serious praying and discernment about the situation if I were.

And to be clear, I’m not trying to insult anyone. I just wanted different view points and to see what other catholics thought. Some people have raised good points here, and I appreciate that.

What burden are they on their parents? Parents love their children. Children are a lot of work, absolutely. Children with special needs can be even more work. But a burden? No. And what burden are they to themselves?

I think this is a very slippery slope. If the parents were very physically unattractive, would it be immoral of them to bring “ugly” children into the world, knowing the burden they face? What if there was a 100% probablity that the child would have less severe special needs than Down Syndrome, like a malformed hand or hearing loss?

Everyone has their own crosses to bear. Some crosses are more apparent to others. People with Down Syndrome happen to carry a cross that is highly visible to others. But I don’t believe that their lives are any less worthy, human, joy-filled, or full of potential than mine.

I didn’t say they were, in fact I went out of my way to point out the opposite. But I have witnessed first hand with my niece how hard it is to raise her and how hard her life is. That is a hard life to live. I’m not sure I would feel right about giving that kind of life to a child, and continue to conceive knowing that each child would have to face those problems and a hard life.

And I’m not suggesting ugly children shouldn’t be born, or any kind of eugenics of any kind. I’m not saying children with problems shouldn’t be born. I’m asking what people would do if they knew they had a near 100% chance they would have children with some kind of developmental problem, whether they would continue to conceive.

To be clear, I know that my sister loves her daughter and that she has brought them great joy and that she is a blessing to their family. And I love her as well, she’s a special child and it’s great to have known her. But I also know that it’s not all joy and fun times, and that my niece has health issues, developmental issues, and not every day is a happy day for her and she goes through things that other kids do not. And I know it makes my sister sad to see her daughter experience those things, and that she will not know of things in life that most of use do know. It is a hard life to live. You cannot deny that. Yes, she’s special and she has the dignity of life that we all have having been made in the likeness of God. But it is a hard life.

My question isn’t about whether she is a person or if those with down syndrome can have good lives. My question is for parents that know every one of their children will most likely turn out that way. One child is a hard situation as it is. How would you raise 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 children like that? It takes a lot of time and energy to raise just my niece. How would you handle a whole brood of down syndrome children? And how would it affect you, knowing not only the joys of each child, but the sadness of their situations and how they would suffer from their situation? IMO it would take a lot of compassion and patience and humility to do that. And I do not know how I would be able to handle that decision. And like I asked, would it be moral to continue to put that burden on each new life knowing it was most likely to happen? What if it wasn’t downs syndrome, but something more drastic like missing limbs or organs? You knew every child would have a serious health problem. Would it be okay for them to suffer those health problems? I dunno.

As I wrote earlier, it would take a lot of discernment and prayer for me to make that decision. It would certainly be a test of my ability to follow God’s will. If it would not be for you (whoever), then you are a better person than me.

The child’s future care, for one. If your child will not be independent as an adult, the parent must support the grown child in some fashion. Even if the grown child lives at home, what about after the death of the parents? Caring and planning for the entire lifetime of a child with DS does strike me as a burden. A burden willingly undertaken yes, but a burden nonetheless. It would hard enough to ensure that one grown child who would never be independent is cared for for their whole lives - how would one couple do that for multiple, especially many, children with DS?

I haven’t even gotten into the day to day care that a DS child needs, the therapies etc. Doable for one, even 2, but how would one couple meet the developmental challenges of many kids with DS? Especially since one of the parents would have to be working to pay for the therapies.

Then the health isssues that commonly go with DS. The majority of kids with DS have heart issues. How in the world would one ordinary couple pay for the daily medical care for multiple kids with DS?

It’s either naive or disingenuous to act as though multiple kids with DS in one family would not be a burden. It certainly isn’t for someone not living that life to say it isn’t.

To me, a burden suggests dead weight, something that drains but does not contribute. Something unwanted. It feels utilitarian, as if we believe that society members that can’t “pull their share” become a burden on hard-working, productive members. I think in secular culture, children are often considered a burden in general, just by virtue of their helplessness. But are they? Should we call people who can’t contribute a burden?

I’m not denying that children are indeed a great deal of work. I can imagine that having a child with Down Syndrome is even more so, especially when the child will never be able to live independently. And the expense certainly goes up with each special needs child as well. I’m not denying the significant cost, effort, work, tears, etc that go into raising a child with disabilities. A family is not required to keep having children that they feel unequipped to care for. This would hold true for families who could expect future children to be healthy and for those expecting future children to be disabled. But I would argue that it is not immoral for a family to conceive a child within marriage even when there was a very high probablity that that child would have Down Syndrome. If a family feels able to love and welcome such a child, there is no sin in bringing him into the world, which is what I think the OP was asking.

I think we need to be very careful about making judgments as to what constitutes a “hard life”. Everyone has a hard life to some extent.

Maybe a child will get bullied all through school and struggle with depression the rest of their days. That’s a hard life. Maybe the child will get hit by a car while riding their bike and end up paralyzed from the waist down. That’s a hard life. Maybe the child will struggle to figure out what they want to do with their life and switch majors in college a half dozen times accumulating massive student loan debts that give them a lifetime of financial burden they feel ill-equipped to ever overcome. That’s a hard life.

As Nodito said, everyone has their cross to bear.

My thoughts exactly.

A tough life by whose standard? What are the objecticve criteria that determine when life is “tough” enough to make a person determine that they should no longer bring a child in to the world? And who gets to decide when this threshold has been met? Do you get to decide for someone else how “tough” their life is?

Same thing for “burden”. A burden by whose standard? What criteria determine where the line is drawn on whether a burden is sufficient to make a person decide to no longer bring a child into the world. And who gets to decide when this threshold has been met? Do you get to decide for someone else how much a “burden” their child(ren) is(are)?

Is that a good reason? I dunno. I’m not disparaging those who do have downs syndrome and how they live their lives. But I do feel that I would not in good conscience continue to bring children into the world that had that burden, and lived a hard life.

Again, by what/whose standard are you judging how hard their life is?

…But I would not feel good about having 4 to 6 (or more) children all with that problem. I had a boss that I worked for whose wife was sterilized after they found out their kids would most likely all have downs after they had their first child.

Why does that matter? In other words, why does it matter how YOU would feel as to whether someone else should be having more Downs-babies? And why does this other couple’s decision matter for other people? I know adoptive parents that have ONLY adopted children with severe handicaps and they don’t seem to be burdened, troubled, think life is any tougher than for anyone else, and they seem to be rather happy.


I don’t think its immoral or a sin to practise NFP continuously in such a situation.Its not for anyone else to judge. If you have a child with Down’s Syndrome, you love that beautiful child and you do the best for him/her. Your situation is not the same.

Your hypothetical “100% chance” genetic predisposition to give birth to babies with DS is not a realistic hypothesis. It is extremely rare for a parent to be genetically disposed.

It’s more likely that the woman you saw with several children with DS might have adopted them all, or maybe she has one “DS child” and had several “DS friends” with them that particular day.

Parents have significantly greater genetic predispositions to pass on asthma, diabetes, and other undesirable but manageable conditions to their children.

Some parents have a greater risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. Risk factors include:

*]Advancing maternal age. A woman’s chances of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome increase with age because older eggs have a greater risk of improper chromosome division. By age 35, a woman’s risk of conceiving a child with Down syndrome is 1 in 400. By age 45, the risk is 1 in 35. However, most children with Down syndrome are actually born to women under age 35 because younger women have far more babies.
*]Having had one child with Down syndrome. Typically, a woman who has one child with Down syndrome has about a 1 percent chance of having another child with Down syndrome.
*]Being carriers of the genetic translocation for Down syndrome. Both men and women can pass the genetic translocation for Down syndrome on to their children.

Is it inherited?
**Most of the time, Down syndrome isn’t inherited. It’s caused by a mistake in cell division during the development of the egg, sperm or embryo. **

Translocation Down syndrome is the only form of the disorder that can be passed from parent to child. However, only about 4 percent of children with Down syndrome have translocation. And only about half of these children inherited it from one of their parents.

When translocations are inherited, the mother or father is a balanced carrier of the translocation, which means he or she has some rearranged genetic material, but no extra genetic material. A balanced carrier has no signs or symptoms of Down syndrome, but he or she can pass the translocation on to children.

The chance of passing on the translocation depends on the sex of the parent who carries the rearranged chromosome 21:

*]If the father is the carrier, the risk is about 3 percent.
*]If the mother is the carrier, the risk is between 10 and 15 percent.

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