Down Syndrome Awareness Day Protects Kids From Abortions

Opinion   |   Wendy Wright   |   Nov 11, 2011   |   6:32PM   |   Washington, DC

Brazil proposed a resolution today to establish an annual World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. Over 60 countries celebrate Down Syndrome Day on that date, chosen because 3/21 represents the three copies of chromosome 21, the unique trait of people with Down syndrome.

Oscar-nominated actor Liam Neeson explains the reason for establishing a special day. “Activities and events held on World Down Syndrome Day can have a tremendous impact, showcasing the abilities, talents and accomplishments of people with Down syndrome.”

Muttiah Muralitharan, a record breaking Sri Lankan cricketer said, “The aims of World Down Syndrome Day are to promote awareness and understanding, seek international support, and to achieve dignity, equal rights and a better life for people with Down syndrome everywhere.”

One statistic reveals the need for better awareness: Over 90% of unborn babies discovered to have Down syndrome are aborted. It would be hard to find any other people group who is experiencing such a near-total extinction.

Mark Leach’s daughter is one of the few allowed to survive. He writes in “My Daughter’s Paradoxical Genes” (the whole article is well worth reading):

“My daughter Juliet was born with two genetic conditions that have been historically discriminated against . . . One of Juliet’s genetic conditions is that she has a third copy of the 21st chromosome in every one of her cells . . .

“In most Western countries, it has been standard of care for the past several years to offer prenatal testing for Down syndrome to all expectant mothers. Should the test be positive, medical guidelines require that the physician counsel his or her patient on abortion . . .

‘It is a paradox, then, that ethicists, physicians, and policymakers have taken the exact opposite position for my daughter’s other genetic condition . . .Juliet also has a duplicate X-chromosome in each of her cells. This double-X condition is commonly diagnosed as “female.”
“. . . the Ethics Committee for the American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued an opinion in 2007 that said it was unethical to use prenatal testing for sex selection. This was the same year that ACOG also recommended that all women be offered prenatal testing for Down syndrome. For double-X, prenatal testing is unethical if its purpose is to abort based on the sex of the baby; for Trisomy 21, it is ethically required to offer prenatal testing in order to allow for aborting the baby based on its genetic condition . . .

“The United Nations Population Fund hosted an international forum to address the sex imbalance occurring in Asian countries due to sex selective abortions against girls. Nobuko Horibe, the Director of the UN’s Asia and Pacific Regional Office declared at the opening, “We must join forces to ensure that sex selection is understood as discrimination against women and girls and should end.”

‘. . . in France, where 96 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted, a Parisian Deputy in Parliament wondered last month: “The real question I ask myself is why is there still 4 percent?”

“. . . What will it take to view the high percentage of abortions to be the “gendercide” — equivalent against Down syndrome such that there is another UN official calling for zero tolerance to the unethical practice of selectively aborting Down syndrome pregnancies?”

Perhaps celebrating World Down Syndrome Day will be a start. Note:  Wendy Wright writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Turtle Bay and Beyond blog and is used with permission.