Massachusetts State Capitol Testimony Down syndrome Law
In May 2003 my beautiful daughter Chloe was born. Shortly after her birth, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome. During my wife’s pregnancy we were advised that we were at high risk for having a child with Down syndrome due to my wife’s age of 40 at the time. We were offered prenatal Down syndrome tests, which we refused, and we loved and treasured our Chloe from the moment of conception.
When Chloe was born, I was serving as a Pittsburgh police officer, and my mission always was to defend and protect, especially the most vulnerable among us. I served 20 years as a Police Officer. When I asked medical professionals what we could do after the tests I was told we could make a decision whether we wanted to keep our daughter or not which shocked me as a cop. If someone came into the hospital trying to hurt others I would do everything I could to stop them but medical professionals were telling me I could terminate my daughter in the hospital if I did not like her test results.
After Chloe’s birth I began speaking to families who had the prenatal Down syndrome tests, and I was shocked to learn that every family I communicated with was advised to terminate the pregnancy once the Down syndrome diagnosis was given. Many were told the child would be a “burden” on their family and unable to function in society. This deeply disturbed me as I watched my daughter grow and become an amazing young lady with many ABILITIES. As a police officer I always sought the facts, and I decided to leave my law enforcement career to advocate for children like Chloe and make sure society was aware of the truth about these awesome individuals.
Chloe and I began making regular trips to the Pennsylvania Capitol to show policymakers how people with Down syndrome can be fully included in schools and communities with the right services. We encouraged bipartisan legislators to invest in these supports so people with Down syndrome could have a great life.
I shared videos of Chloe reading at age three and told of all the other incredible outreach and activities she was involved with – she reads better than most cops I worked with. Chloe plays baseball and volleyball, loves to golf, attends high school, goes to dances, enjoys church, is manager on two basketball teams, has many friends, likes to go out to eat, adores her brother, Nolan; and has received several awards for her advocacy. She is even on and in a book “Brilliant Souls” about the gift of Down syndrome, and the book is all over the world – I will send you a signed copy if you like!
Chloe has been invited to the United Nations twice (due to an extremely high termination rate in Iceland for prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses), appears in many media articles and in a book, has met the president and vice president at the White House, had her picture with the Vice President hanging on the West Wing Wall of the White House and has had her picture appear on the big screen in Times Square five times. She also is featured in a global video about Down syndrome that has reached millions in several languages.
In addition, she has advocated for state legislation (Chloe’s Law) which gives factual, supportive information following a Down syndrome diagnosis. Chloe LOVES life! Does this sound like a person who is a “burden” and unable to function in society?
In our great nation it is illegal with severe penalties and fines to harm or destroy an eagle or turtle egg because they are endangered species that could easily become extinct if not defended and protected. What is an eagle or turtle egg - An unborn species? Prenatal individuals with Down syndrome represent an unborn species of people who are being systematically eliminated from the earth and are currently endangered in many countries – in Iceland they are extinct the past 7+ years. Don’t these people deserve the same protection as endangered animals? In 1973 we criminalized killing our most vulnerable animal species prenatally and postnatally with the Endangered Species Act, and in 1973 we legalized killing our most vulnerable human species with the legalization of abortion. Isn’t it time to defend all our most endangered and vulnerable species?
In 2015 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on all executions in my state because of concerns about the death penalty system. I agree that we must be 100 percent sure a person is guilty of a crime prior to punishment being administered. Innocent children diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome are receiving a death sentence when they are identified, targeted and terminated for not meeting the misguided cultural mandate for unattainable perfection. Isn’t this an absolute miscarriage of justice and the ultimate form of a hate crime?
For people who believe in tolerance, inclusion, diversity and acceptance, this prenatal genocide represents the most extreme form of prejudice, profiling, bias, intolerance, bigotry, exclusion and hate. In my 20-year law enforcement career, I never recall seeing or reading about a person with Down syndrome committing an act of violence, malice, hatred or evil. Chloe doesn’t care what your political party is, where you live, how much money you have, what you drive, what your title is, what color your hair is, how tall you are, what you look like and anything else our lost culture is obsessed with. Isn’t this unconditional love, genuine kindness, real acceptance and pure joy exactly what our world needs right now?
I am taking time to speak to you today to urge you to pass H. 2409, which will place a moratorium on Down syndrome prenatal terminations and restore an inclusive culture of life where people “Embrace, don’t erase” Down syndrome. As prenatal testing rapidly advances, we should all be asking, who will be next to receive a prenatal death sentence? What if in the near future there is a prenatal test for Autism, Depression, baldness, ADHD, OCD, red hair, shortness, anxiety, and the list goes on and on.
If we were living in America in 1860 we would hopefully be working nonstop to end the institution of slavery in this country and many would have told us that was not possible. I am asking you to please join together in making history in Massachusetts and restoring a culture of LIFE that welcomes, accepts and EMBRACES all people like my beautiful daughter Chloe. “EMBRACE don’t erase” Down syndrome.
THANK YOU for allowing me to speak here today, and I wish you, your families and wonderful citizens all of God’s Blessings and Goodness.
Kurt A. Kondrich M.Ed