Study in Scotland Shows Some Turnaround in Abortions on Disabled Children

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 24, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Study in Scotland Shows Some Turnaround in Abortions on Disabled Children

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 24
, 2008

London, England ( — A new study out of Scotland shows there may be some turnaround in the number of abortions done on disabled unborn children. The targeting of disabled babies for abortions has been a problem as rates for abortions of Down syndrome children have been as high as 90 percent.

The problem was highlighted during the elections with a focus on the birth of Governor Sarah Palin’s son Trig.

The report indicates that more babies are born with Down syndrome in Scotland than before pre-natal screening for the disorder was introduced 20 years ago.

According to the Scotsman newspaper, the number of babies born with the condition fell from 717 then to 594 by 2000. But a turnaround appears to be happening where the birthrate has increased and 749 babies with the condition were born in 2006.

The newspaper also cites figures from the health ministry showing the proportion of newborn children with Down syndrome children born in the last six years rising to 15 percent.

In another report out from the BBC, the Down’s Syndrome Association conducted a survey of its members to determine why the numbers were rising. It found that parents with Christian beliefs were more often choosing life for their baby.

The survey also found parents of disabled children in general believed that society is more accepting of disabled children now than in prior years and that medicine and technology had advanced to provide more benefits for them.

"We are all very surprised by this. It wasn’t what any of us working in the field would have anticipated and it seems to show more parents are thinking more carefully before opting for pre-natal screening and termination," Carol Boys, chief executive of the group, told the Scotsman.

"When I and others had our babies, it was a very different world – those with Down’s syndrome were treated very differently. Now, there is much greater inclusion and acceptance, with mainstream education having a huge role," Boys added.

Wesley J. Smith, an American attorney and author who is a leading bioethicist, says the good news is that people are becoming more accepting of the disabled.

"This news confirms a few things I believe are very important to keeping the lights on in these darkening days," he writes.

"First, human exceptionalism is the key to a more moral society. When we accept the equal moral value of people with disabilities, people who are elderly, people who are ill or dying, death is less likely to be seen as the answer to their problems and those of society," Smith explains.

"Second, modeling lives lived in love does more to help others find the same virtues than a whole lot of tub thumping, albeit advocacy remains an important factor," Smith adds.

"Third, if people are given full information rather than being pushed toward eugenic options, fewer people are terminated. Fourth, if we commit to helping each other, both societally and as individuals, the despair that can result in eugenics choices will abate," Smith said.

He concludes: "The people with Down and other developmental disabilities don’t drag society down, they lift it up. Let us hope that one day they will all be welcomed into life in love and unconditional acceptance. Let us hope that one day no one will be considered–or consider themselves– a burden.’"

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