Friday, February 13, 2009

When Beliefs Clash - A Parent’s View of Down syndrome and Marriage

[Note to any readers arriving from CTF: This was posted on the 13, for the 14th. I do not blog on Saturdays.]
I believe that Ricki has a right to love in her life, and the right to marry. I sometimes question whether her rather prickly personality will ever mellow enough to enable her to sustain a marriage, but I have hopes. Now if I were a libertarian, modern-age promoter of “free-living”, I would have no problems here. But I am not only a non-libertarian, but diametrically opposed to that type of life style. As an orthodox Jew, I believe in the unacceptability of any physical relationships outside of marriage. And I hope that Ricki will accept these values, which is the way I am educating her.
Now these two beliefs are not truly exclusive of each other. Ricki is of the educational level that by Jewish law she should be on a level to allow her to affirm her choice, and be party to marriage. I once heard a halachic decision (one according to Jewish law) by a very prominent Rabbi stating that if a person knows the amount of change coming to him, there is no problem with marriage. (And I don’t think he meant hard calculations, either.)
But we are not, in considering Ricki, dwelling on a theoretical question, but real lives of real people. Real marriages involve people who can be hurt. I have no illusions that Ricki will be able to manage completely on her own if married. Marriage can cause stress at times. She will need support if she hopes to live a happily married life. And the Rabbi I mentioned above said that the community must give the support needed for couples like this. My qualms are that I doubt that the needed support will actually be given. “Should be given”, and “Is given” are often poles apart.
First, the government here has decided that if a person is smart enough to get married, than they don’t need the financial support granted to person with intellectual disability. So if you want to get married, like most young people who get married, you need a job. But you need a job that you can SUPPORT yourself with. That’s the rub. How likely is Ricki to find a job which she will be able to fully support herself? [Looking around at what passes in Israel as “jobs for the intellectually impaired”, I have my doubts.]
In addition, with all the myriad problems facing the world and our community today, I suspect that enabling a couple with intellectual disabilities to get married will be low on the list of priorities.
There is also the problem as I mentioned in an earlier post, of procreation. I will not willingly subject Ricki to a situation where a child would be taken from her. Although I hope to teach her some aspects of child rearing, using Brookes Publishing’s book The Health and Wellness Program, I suspect that she will never be on the level (even if the social services would allow her to keep a child) to be 100% independent as a parent.
Generally, orthodoxy frowns on birth control. However, none of this problem is insurmountable. If Ricki is of the level to get married, and birth control is needed for that couple to manage, I doubt that she would have any trouble getting rabbinical permission for it. (And if she marries someone with Down syndrome, they are not likely to have children anyway.) But it is a factor that needs to be considered and dealt with.

My solution? My ideal dream?
I would like that the government, in addition to providing in-the-community housing, to make a few small rural communities. Each community would have several small cottages, or duplexes, for couples to live in. Work opportunities would be part of the package. In addition, some houses would belong to “normal” couples willing to live there as support resources, as their job. They would arrange some recreational facilities, continuing education opportunities, give marriage counseling, and be available for emergencies.
But why should the government or anyone else pay for that? Isn’t it easier to keep them celibate? And cheaper? Who cares that they are missing out on what most of us take for granted?

1 comment:

Dave Hingsburger said...

In Canada, and in other countries, government funding gets in the way of relationships - if you marry, you lose funds. It seems to me to be a way of controlling, through the power of money, people's lives. I see this as policy by force, control by bullying, now we have people with disabilities choosing to live together outside of marriage in order to be finanically secure. I see another option PROTEST. Disabilty and needs don't disappear when love happens. Thanks for your post today.