In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said that we are, “...tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
Massachusetts eliminates approximately half of all Down syndrome people, by abortion, upon a prenatal diagnosis. Removing them has severely frayed our “garment of destiny,” affecting each of us.
In the last 50 years, we’ve made undeniable progress in the fair treatment toward individuals with physical and mental challenges. Consider various legal requirements: Early childhood intervention to address developmental delays; accessibility standards in our buildings; workplace accommodations; web design protocol for the visually or hearing impaired (Exhibit A on that: an accessibility page on your State House website).
Did laws behind each of these advances require sacrifices of time and money? Yes. Have they been worth it? Of course. And we are a more just society because of them. As Dr. King also wrote, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
State law currently permits prejudice, via eugenic abortion, against people with Down Syndrome. The law degrades human personality and therefore is unjust. Committee members, I ask you to support H.2409. Your “yay” vote will protect a person believed to have Down syndrome. A “nay” vote? A vote for continued discrimination.
A 2016 Planned Parenthood fact sheet supports this assertion. In reference to “flaws” of founder Margaret Sanger: it reads “she extended opinions that clearly expressed ableism and exclusion . . .The history of ableism in America is an issue we must all address — including at Planned Parenthood. It is important that we understand our collective history and the legacy it leaves on those still impacted by an unjust system . . .the way to move forward is to address ableism – outside or inside our organization."
Committee members, let’s think about your hypothetical “nay” vote on this bill. The result? A faulty step onto a slippery slope toward widespread, culturally-acceptable subjective discrimination against -- well, everyting. Just consider what further discrimination we might soon allow, when advances in genetic testing reveal the likelihood of:
At Boston’s Holocaust Memorial, an inscription asks visitors to "know that wherever prejudice, discrimination and victimization are tolerated, evil like the Holocaust can happen again." My friends, thank you for listening and for your action to put an end to the evil before us: the unquestionable discrimination against those with Down syndrome.