Janie Cheaney: Accepting the unplanned


KENT COVINGTON, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Kent Covington.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

In 1953, Dale Rogers wrote the book “Angels Unaware.” She was the wife of then-world-famous singing cowboy Roy Rogers. Dale wrote from the perspective of her 2-year-old daughter who’d passed away from complications of Down syndrome. The title comes from Hebrews 13:2 which says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”

But the modern day “enlightened” West doesn’t put much value on blessings so disguised. Here’s Janie B. Cheaney with thoughts on the very meaning of life.

JANIE CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: Writing in The Washington Post a few months ago, Ruth Marcus expressed dismay about legislative proposals to ban the abortion of Down syndrome babies. Or, as she put it: “barring women from terminating their pregnancies after the fetus has been determined” to bear the defective gene. To her, that’s tantamount to “hijacking” a woman’s body.

Marcus said she has nothing against Down syndrome babies; she admires parents who welcome these children into their families. But, “I can say without hesitation that, tragic as it would have felt and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated [my own two] pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.”

Kudos to her for being so forthright, but what does that even mean?

First of all, what’s to grieve? If a potential person who’s better off dead, why be sad? You did the kid a favor. But if an innocent human being, however impaired, then another body was hijacked. Marcus offers no moral justification except a somewhat refined version of Survival of the Fittest.   

Part of understanding moral behavior toward children, as well as food, sports, sex, education, etc., is to ask ourselves, What are these things for? To bypass vital questions in order to get where you want to go may look like “moving on.” But it’s really standing still. If the purpose of one’s life is to avoid unpleasant experiences, there’s no real movement at all.

To accept the challenges of life is to ride the current, honing reflexes and chiseling away sharp edges and shouting in triumph at the end. The opposite is to hunker down in the stream like a rock. The waters pass you but don’t shape you. Rather than ending the journey as a different, better person… you simply end.

What is the purpose of life? One theory—call it Door #1—is that life is for us to shape to our perceived advantage. The other theory—Door #2—is that life is for shaping us.

Most people, I would guess, share the former view if only by default—and life as a rock can be very pleasant, if one is both gifted and lucky. Otherwise it’s likely to disappoint. And for everyone, it ends.

What is your life for? What is a Down syndrome baby’s life for? If Door #1, the answer is plain, and ultimately meaningless. If Door #2 the answer is unfolding, with the best-case-scenario of a hope that is inexpressible and full of glory. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

For WORLD Radio, I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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