Monday, May 30, 2011

Since when was a 0.32% risk unacceptable?

Without necessarily endorsing the point she is making about abortion, I have a lot of sympathy with how Cristina Odone reacted upon being told that becoming a mother at the age of 42 was a bad idea...

"My jubilation – I had given up all hope of having a child – overcame any practical considerations, such as would Edward be equally happy at the prospect of parenthood, and would I have to work part-time? So I was taken aback when many of my women friends reacted to my news with: “Is this wise?”

What they really meant was: “Is this convenient?” Such thinking is, in part at least, behind the one-third increase in abortions in the over-forties over the past decade. Age certainly correlates with foetal health; but it is only one consideration."

And it isn't necessarily just prospective mothers who have to put up with that kind of reaction. The most bizarre blog I've ever come across (and the competition is naturally stiff) was written by a woman whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to browbeat men over the age of roughly 30-32 into refraining from having children - because of the elevated risk of autism. It was helpfully divided into categories with catchy and subtle titles along the lines of "Older Men Should Not Start Families" and "Men Should Only Have Children Between the Ages of 20 and 32". Well, my own parents were both well into their forties when I was born, and speaking personally I'm actually quite glad they went through with it in spite of the terrifying 0.32% chance that I would turn out to be autistic (which would scarcely have been the end of the world anyway).

I suppose what might just about be reasonable is to educate school pupils about the potential benefits of having children at a younger age, so they can go on to make informed choices at every stage of their adult lives. But, in the real world, lives and relationships simply refuse to adhere to military-style planning, so to effectively scream abuse at people for 'irresponsibly' deciding to have children at a perfectly normal age seems vaguely ludicrous, not to mention...well, fascistic.


  1. Hi James,

    I can never understand the gall that "lifestyle" persons must have who think it their place to tell others how to conduct themselves.

    Like you, I am the product of older parents and consider it just part of my life experience, in just the same way as some friends parents' were younger and that was theirs. So what - as if either me or my friends had any say in the matter.

    From magazines advising schoolchildren to want "a wee baby" to magazines advising "older" people in their thirties not to?

    If I have any advice at all (and I hesitate to give even this) it would be "Don't read lifestyle magazines" I doubt seriously if they will improve your outlook on life and may well distort your thinking.


  2. Do you realise the gravity of what you're suggesting, Rab? I'd be bereft without my copy of Marie Claire!