He Refused Abortion When He Learned His Baby Had Down Syndrome: “I Have a Daughter to Protect”

International   Sarah Zagorski   Mar 2, 2015   |   7:34PM    Washington, DC

In 2010, Tom and Karen Bachofner found out they were pregnant with their third child. At the time, Karen was 39 and decided to have the Bart’s screening test, which can indicate if a baby could have Down syndrome. A week later they were told their child had a 1 in 12 chance of having the condition.

Tom told the Mirror Online about the experience. He said, “In the UK, 1 in 200 is classed as high, so 1 in 12 felt almost inevitable. When Karen called with the results, I rushed to be with her.”

After the initial test, the hospital offered the couple an amniocentesis test and six days later doctors confirmed that their baby would have the condition. Then the medical staff at the hospital asked them if they wanted an abortion but they refused.

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Tom said, “Karen and I both wanted to carry on with the pregnancy – we didn’t even consider the alternative, so when the question was raised by staff we dismissed it. They seemed surprised. I assume because a shocking 90% of UK pregnancies with Down’s syndrome are terminated.”

Tom also said he was very disturbed by how his doctors tried to turn the conversation toward abortion.

He said, “What disturbed me was how the conversation with the consultant and nurse was angled towards termination. There wasn’t a single word about what the future might hold for a child with Down’s. I asked if they had any literature for us to take away and digest. They muttered nervously, before handing over a ripped piece of notepaper with a website address scribbled on. No leaflets, nothing.”

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He added, “I was thrown into confusion and anger. Looking back, I can honestly say that those particular health care professionals (I’m not speaking for all) could easily have swayed a couple, who were unsure of their decision, into making a choice they might have regretted for the rest of their lives.”

Unfortunately, later tests showed that the couple’s baby had a hole in its heart. This is very common for children with Down syndrome and many infants with the condition need surgery once their born. However, successful surgery usually allows these children to continue growing like any other person with the Down syndrome.

A few weeks after the diagnosis the couple found out they were having a baby girl.

Tom said, “A couple of weeks after the amniocentesis result, I came home from work to find Karen waiting for me at the front door. The hospital had called. “We’re having a girl,” she smiled. I fell to my knees with tears of joy and relief. I’d found something positive to hold on to. I’d always wanted a daughter, and in that moment I began to accept what was happening. I had a daughter to protect.”

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On March 15, 2011, their daughter Rosie was born and at six-months old underwent heart surgery to repair the hole in her heart. Tom said, “All I wanted was my baby girl home safe. Thankfully, the operation was a success and she was home eight days later. Rosie is now three and a half. She sees a speech and language therapist and play therapist – she’s also just started at our local mainstream nursery. Her brothers are doting, so I can see she’ll be protected as she grows up. I have every reason to believe she’ll lead a full and independent life.”

He concluded, “Children with DS are people. They have more in common with their parents and siblings, than each other…we wouldn’t change a thing about her. After all, Down’s doesn’t define who she is – it’s just one part of her.”