Hitler Killed Disabled Children and So Do We

Hitler Killed Disabled Children and So Do We

His name was Gerhard Herbert Kretschmar – the first person killed by official order of Adolph Hitler. He was born blind and missing some limbs. He was five months old. And he was not the last.

Immediately following this illegal act (not even the Chancellor of Germany could legally order such a thing), Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Karl Brandt, created a registry of children with disabilities and a panel of doctors who would decide who should live and who should be killed. Soon it would include adults. More than 200,000 physically or cognitively disabled people would be killed between 1939 and 1945 in Germany.

This was not a single aberration in human history perpetrated by a madman — people with disabilities are frequently the first to be targeted for destruction. And when that practice becomes acceptable, it expands to include more and more people who are "considered" unworthy of life. 

Today, that includes aborting one of two healthy twins in the womb. Some women who have gone through significant financial expense and physical hardship to conceive children through medical interventions are voluntarily choosing to kill one of their healthy twins, though there is usually no medical reason to do so.

The New York Times looked at this issue of the two-minus-one pregnancy in August and it frequently came down two things: 1) this isn’t what I planned for; and 2) I don’t want to endure the suffering that comes with twins.

And at least one woman made the case that since it is acceptable to abort children with disabilities it should be equally acceptable to abort one of two healthy twins:

“I couldn’t have imagined reducing twins for nonmedical reasons,” she said, “but I had an amnio and would have had an abortion if I found out that one of the babies had an anomaly, even if it wasn’t life-threatening. I didn’t want to raise a handicapped child. Some people would call that selfish, but I wouldn’t. Parents who abort for an anomaly just don’t want that life for themselves, and it’s their prerogative to fashion their lives how they want. Is terminating two to one really any different morally?”

Pause over that last sentence. She is right, you know. There is absolutely no moral difference between a healthy twin and a baby with disabilities. Yet, as a culture, we behave like there is a difference. We see some qualitative difference between the life of a child with a disability and the life of a ‘typically’ developing child. And when we see this way, we open the door to more children being destroyed, including healthy children. And if history can teach us anything, it could also include adults that don't fit our brand of genetic purity.

Church, we will not see this way. We will not. We will confound our culture, valuing all children in all circumstances. This is a radical expression of love that we are called to as the redeemed of God. We will see differently and Jesus will be glorified.

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John Knight is Director of Donor Partnerships at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments, and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.