Imagine a news headline: “With a simple pre-natal test, the US could eliminate delayed reading in just a few years.” And the method for eliminating delayed reading would be aborting babies who show a gene abnormality associated with delayed reading. How horrific is that idea?
How about if we abort every child who has a gene for color blindness? After all, what could their quality of life be in a lifetime of color blindness? Better off dead!
Now imagine how the parents of child with Down syndrome feel about news story after news story trumpeting the “elimination” of Down syndrome in Iceland where the abortion rate for children who show the genetic abnormality in prenatal tests is close to 100%. A report on Australia’s 60 Minutes discussed it in glowing, positive terms while promoting the idea for that country. That prompted some parents to speak out.
“Can you imagine what that must feel like?” Joelle Kelly, an Australian mother of a girl with Down syndrome said. “People are out and around in your community wanting you not there, I can’t fathom what that would feel like.”
“On 60 Minutes Australia tonight, in a couple of hours time, people across Australia will begin to discuss whether they think a child ‘like ours’ is worthy of life,” she wrote on her Facebook page, before the episode aired. “Let that sink in for you…. Instead of tagging me in posts tonight, I want you to think about how this feels for a person WITH Down syndrome who is listening or reading. Josee already reads, imagine what she could read online tonight if she was older?? Instead her brother and sister will probably feel the brunt of it tonight. … Let people know out there that you value the natural diversity of life. After all, it’s not Josee having Down syndrome that we find hard, it’s society’s negative stigma.”
Kelly adds that what parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis need is real and supportive information, not a trip to an abortionist. They need to hear that Down syndrome is not the end of the world, that their child will still be a loving and beautiful baby. Studies back up Joelle’s claim, showing that “women frequently receive inaccurate, outdated information” when given a Down syndrome diagnosis.
While the rates for abortion of babies with Down syndrome reach 90 and 100%, 99% of those who actually live with the condition report their lives are happy and their parents say they have a more positive outlook on life because of them.
What would make society better is not fewer people born with Down syndrome, but everyone who has Down syndrome to be born.