Mum: ‘My doctor told me it was selfish not to abort my son’

A couple who were told it was “selfish” not to abort their disabled son have said he is “the greatest gift we could have received”.

Mariaan and Hendrik Strauss, from South Africa, were pressured to abort their unborn son after a 13-week scan revealed he wasn’t developing arms.

But Mariaan went on to give birth to baby Hendré, an occasion the couple described as “such a beautiful moment”.


Although Mariaan chose life, she admitted after giving birth that she went into a “dark depression” over concerns he may never be accepted by “cruel” society.

“The words of my specialist kept running through my head, ‘You’re selfish if you don’t abort. You must think of the child. He will never be able to have a normal quality of life’.”

She said: “There was self-blame and pain. And the fear of the unknown and an uncertain future”, but “if I had to choose today, I would take him just like that, again. Without arms.”

She expressed sorrow over those who have aborted their child following a diagnosis, saying: “I wish they could hear me when I tell them it’s okay to have a child who’s different from society’s idea of ‘normal’.”


Dad Henrik said: “When he wakes up, he lies there and smiles at us”, and “to think I wanted to throw it away because I was scared and insecure”.

Now eleven months old, Hendré has learnt to roll using just his legs. He does face other challenges, such as only being able to consume 30ml of milk at a time because his stomach hasn’t grown.

In Britain, abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons but is available up to birth for children deemed to have a disability.


In May, Down’s syndrome campaigners Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson announced their intention to take the fight against disability-selective abortions to the highest court in Europe.

The campaigners hope to get “equality for babies with disability in the womb” at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after permission to appeal at the UK Supreme Court was refused.

Heidi said that she and fellow campaigner Máire would “try everything to get people to realise the discrimination going on in front of their eyes” and they were prepared to “take the fight all the way to Strasbourg”.

“If we win there the case will affect the law across the whole of Europe.”

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