By Anne Fox, President of Massachusetts Citizens for Life
In 1976, at the National Right to Life Convention here in Boston, I had the honor to hear Dr. Jérôme Lejeune speak. I still remember his delightful French accent when he asked, "What is this 'personhood'. We do not talk of 'cathood' or doghood.’”
Listening to him, I realized, for the first time, that the true genius is the one who can explain his subject simply in every day terms.
While he was here, he appeared at a press conference. “LM”, a reporter at the Boston Globe, yelled at him, challenging whether he had actually found the cause of Down syndrome since it wasn't named after him.
(In fact, the syndrome is named after Dr. John Langdon Down, who first described the condition in the 1860’s. In 1961, the medical journal The Lancet proposed renaming it from “Mongolism” to Down syndrome, recognizing Down’s contribution to the study of the condition, and the World Health Organization agreed. Some had advocated for calling it Lejeune syndrome because of his discovery of the genetic cause in 1958, but the WHO chose instead to honor Down.)
Dr. Lejeune, having found the cause of Down syndrome, went on to establish a therapy regime for those youngsters. It was used so successfully in England that, as he said, many of the children showed no signs of the condition by their late teens. Just think how much people with Down syndrome and all those with developmental delays owe to his pioneering therapies.
It was only after his untimely death that the cruel treatment, Dr. Lejeune received because of his pro-life commitment became public knowledge. It is this, rather than medical facts, which K.V. Turley explores in his Crisis article, where he describes this incredible man.
And so, predictably, by the early 1970s, pressure was growing for a change in France’s abortion laws. Around that time the parents of a young Down syndrome patient took him to see Lejeune. When they arrived for the consultation, the 10-year-old boy was weeping uncontrollably. His parents explained to Lejeune that the boy had been upset since watching a television debate during which there had been calls for children with Down syndrome to be aborted. Suddenly, the boy threw his arms around the neck of the professor, crying out as he did so that Lejeune had to defend children like him as they were just too weak and didn’t know how to…