Patricia Stewart's Testimony

Good morning/afternoon Madam Chairs and committee members.


I am Patricia Stewart, Executive Director of Mass. Citizens for Life, and I support H.2409.


The National Association for Down syndrome advises that “the most important fact to know about individuals with Down syndrome is that they are more like others than they are different.”. Importantly, a Down syndrome diagnosis is not a death sentence. A child born with Down syndrome has an 88% chance of reaching the age of 20. Many go on to live into their 60’s and 70’s. 

Despite developmental delays, individuals with Down syndrome and the proper medical assistance, achieve success: many elementary-age students attend regular schools; high school students graduate with degrees and go on to post-graduate studies. Many adults with Down syndrome keep a job. Some even become celebrities.  

During 2013-2014 (the most recent reporting period), Down syndrome was the most common birth defect in Massachusetts. Despite encouraging facts for a life of promise, the incidence of abortion in Massachusetts, based exclusively on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, is an alarmingly high 49%.  By comparison, the next most prevalent birth defect in that time period was cardiovascular with an abortion rate of less than 1% (.087%).  These figures indicate how far we have come on a morally troubling path toward a society that decides what type of life is worthy of existence. Down syndrome has been called the “canary in the coal mine” for selective reproduction. H. 2409 aims to redirect our path. 

Bioethicist Rosemarie Garland-Thomson of Emory University coined the phrase, “velvet eugenics,” referring to the commercialization of reproductive services. “Velvet” connotes the subtle manner in which the eradication of disabilities is promoted.  The skyrocketing rate of abortion for a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis raises the specter of eugenic practices of the past, which modern American society resoundingly rejects. Unless it is stopped, this Massachusetts version of “velvet eugenics” will eradicate generations of children with Down syndrome, until there are none. 

H.2409  will curtail discrimination against unborn children with Down syndrome. It does not ban any abortion. It prohibits an abortion provider, who knows a pregnant woman is seeking an abortion based solely on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, from performing the abortion. The woman is free to seek an abortion from another provider, who is ignorant of such fact. 

Abortion access in Massachusetts is available and convenient: according to the Guttmacher Institute, 87% of women live in counties with abortion clinics, and 59%  live within 15 miles of an abortion provider. 

None among us is perfect, but we all have the innate ability to contribute to the fabric of society, just by being alive. H.2409 will preserve the life of people with Down syndrome and secure their potential to further enrich Massachusetts’ life and culture. 

For the foregoing reasons, I ask that you give H. 2409 a favorable report. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.