National

Education board member calls for more prenatal screening to reduce 'burden' of disabled children

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A newly appointed Ibaraki education board member has sparked online outrage after suggesting the prefecture back more prenatal screening to reduce the “burden” on parents of having a disabled child.

Speaking at an education policy meeting Wednesday, Chieko Hasegawa, the 71-year-old vice president of Tokyo-based Gallery Nichido, said that the prefecture should set up a system to enable pregnant women to find out whether their unborn babies have any disabilities.

“We need to drastically change our way of thinking. It’s best if technology can help us know whether our kids are disabled beforehand,” she said, according to a media report confirmed by the board to The Japan Times.

“Once they’re born, it’s a huge burden.”

She then expressed what many took as her hopes that Ibaraki will undertake a policy to “reduce” the number of such children.

Hasegawa’s remark came as she recounted her recent experience inspecting special schools in the prefecture that catered to the needs of children with disabilities.

She told The Japan Times on Thursday that during the trip she learned of a recent spike in enrollments of such children and a severe shortage of facilities to accommodate them.

At the Wednesday meeting, she said the vast number of teachers needed to work at these schools would translate into “massive budgets.”

However, on Thursday she said her remark was misunderstood.

“I was merely pointing out (that) running more screening tests during the early stage of pregnancy will give mothers more choices,” she said.

“What should be reduced is not the number of disabled children, but parents who feel burdened” by the decision to have the child, she continued.

Her comment, however, sparked widespread online ire, with some going so far as to say it amounted to an open endorsement of eugenics.

Author and sports journalist Hirotada Ototake, who was born without arms and legs, tweeted Thursday: “Hey Ms. Hasegawa. So do you mean I shouldn’t have been born?”

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