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The pro-life message of the Paralympics

Elite athletes show the value of life at all ability levels


Italy’s Beatrice Maria Vio after winning a wheelchair fencing match at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Saturday Associated Press/Kyodo News

The pro-life message of the Paralympics

Italy hosted the first Paralympics in Rome in 1960. At the 2020 games in Tokyo, Italians had won 11 individual and two team gold medals as of Friday with three days left in the competition. But back home, a movement for legal euthanasia sends people with disabilities the message that their lives might not be worth living.

Most Paralympic athletes “have strived and overcome the barriers, and this is what should be emphasized—the ability of the human person to excel in spite of barriers,” said Alex Schadenberg, the founder and executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Canada. During the Paralympics, secular disability rights groups are echoing the pro-life message that all human life has dignity and meaning.

In conjunction with the Tokyo Games, an organization called WeThe15 launched a campaign to promote disability rights. Sponsored by the Paralympics and other groups, WeThe15 highlights the 15 percent of the world’s population—more than 1 billion people, according to its website—who have disabilities.

The campaign video starts out with voice-overs of the sentiments people with disabilities hear repeatedly, such as “it breaks my heart,” “look at you out and about,” and “you’re such an inspiration.” Then it takes a humorous turn as people with various disabilities talk about and act out the ordinary things they do: take care of children, tend houseplants, watch TV, and go out on dates. It also alludes to casual sex and pornography, though it doesn’t contain any explicit content. Overall, the video communicates the goodness of ordinary life.

Italy’s euthanasia petition sells euthanasia as a way to exercise freedom and end suffering. That mindset dehumanizes the people who suffer rather than seeking to alleviate their suffering, Schadenberg said.

The WeThe15 campaign and Schadenberg both emphasize the need to make it easier for people with disabilities to participate in mainstream society. Schadenberg suggested hosting the Paralympics at the same time as the Olympics instead of several weeks later. He said the fundamental question is: “how is someone seen and treated like anybody else, with a disability or not? We need true equality, when instead we have a lot of fear.” As the WeThe15 video states, “And only when you see us as one of you, wonderfully ordinary, wonderfully human, only then can we all break down these barriers that keep us apart.”


Anna Timmis

Anna is a WORLD Journalism Institute student.

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THOL9355

Even if it's not feasible to have the Paralympics at the same time, NBC could give them more airtime on broadcast TV instead of just streaming.