Framingham, MA, Democratic Committee Chair Michael Hugo drew some unwanted media attention and also demands for his resignation when during a February 7 city council meeting, he candidly expressed his views about children with disabilities.
The conversation was within the context of a council discussion regarding crisis pregnancy centers and access to abortion. Hugo expressed his concern that an unqualified sonographer at one of these centers might misdiagnose a fetal anomaly, resulting in the birth of a disabled child, which would, over time, result in high costs to a school district in providing adaptive learning support for the child.
The backlash Michael Hugo received from his comments was well-deserved. What is especially astounding is how tone-deaf someone in his position could be to the tenor of the culture around him. Prenatal diagnosis that leads to the abortion of babies who show markers for disability is a dark eugenic stain on our culture, but sadly it is widely accepted—in fact, even promoted. However, as we have seen in these cases, once born, prejudicial and malicious comments like these unleash a parental advocacy force that can—and should—bring down the career of anyone who dares to challenge the value of our precious children, regardless of the severity of their disability.
If everyone considering abortion after an adverse prenatal diagnosis could only recognize in this fierce advocacy for children with disabilities the love of parents for their children regardless of their disability. If so, we might see the number of abortions of these children decrease.
The human heart is an amazing thing. It isn’t made for easy loving. When we accept the challenge to love beyond what we think is possible, we begin to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is God’s love for us.
People who make comments like those expressed by Mr. Hugo show no understanding of love—only the practical and fiscal challenge of having to “put up” with children with disabilities. Jerome Lejeune acknowledged this challenge and provided the only possible answer. He asked: “What is the cost of caring for a child with a disability?” His answer, “It is exactly the cost of remaining human.”
It is a tragedy in our culture that we still must have these conversations. However painful it is, I am grateful that Mr. Hugo exposed the thoughts of his heart and brought this into the light so we could all witness the public’s response. It’s hard to accept his apologies as anything other than an attempt to preserve his position. What troubles me more than these spoken thoughts are those thoughts that go hidden and unexpressed. The snake in the grass is always more dangerous than the one you can see on the road.