Why My Daughter’s 19th Birthday Shames Those Who Think People With Down Syndrome Aren’t Fit to Live

Opinion   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 2, 2014   |   4:23PM   |   Washington, DC

We have chronicled the plight of unborn children with Down Syndrome countless times over the years here at LifeNews. With the staggeringly high percentage of children with Down Syndrome becoming victims of abortion, we constantly do everything we can to celebrate their lives and contributions to society.

That’s why, without further ado, we provide you a clip of an excellent article today from British writer Dominic Lawson:

Yesterday my younger daughter celebrated her 19th birthday with characteristic exuberance.

downsyndrome3Yet immediately after she was born, on June 1, 1995, we had all manner of gloomy medical assessments of the shape she’d be in by now.

Domenica emerged into the world with Down’s syndrome, a surprise to the doctors as well as to her parents; and we were given the bleakest forecasts of what the consequences might be of her possession of an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.

She might never be able to talk or even walk. Her health would be a daily worry.

Twenty years or so ago, this might have been the standard prognosis given by doctors, but it was already hopelessly out of date – the one serious medical condition affecting about half of Down’s babies, a hole in the heart, has long been routinely corrected by early surgery.

And although Domenica’s speech can be hard to understand, one reason for that is that she talks incredibly quickly with a vast, if occasionally inappropriate, vocabulary.

I had no idea what to expect when she was born; but because I was concerned that people would not know whether to commiserate or congratulate, I wrote an article saying that it should be the latter — and how happy I was that her much-loved elder sister had a sibling.

On the whole, the reaction of readers was positive, but a small number said something to the effect of ‘She may be a beautiful and loveable baby now, but just wait until you see what a teenager with Down’s is like’.

Well, she is still beautiful and loveable; and while almost all parents say that about their own children in normal circumstances, I have never yet come across a parent of someone with Down’s who has a bad relationship with them.

I suspect that the authors of those few critical replies were not themselves parents of Down’s children.

downsyndrome2One of them was the late Claire Rayner, who in an article of response rebuked us for not having pre-natal tests for Down’s and declared ‘society’ would have to bear the burden of the ‘misery’ of Domenica’s life: in other words, this former nurse thought it would be better if all such people were detected in utero and aborted.

Incredibly, Rayner was at the time a patron of the Down’s Syndrome Association. Even more incredibly, she was outraged when the association immediately told her that her affiliation with them was the only thing being terminated.

But perhaps Rayner had just been expressing explicitly an attitude within the medical profession which normally remains implicit.

A few years ago, the BBC News website ran a selection of comments on this general issue and one, from a woman giving her name as Heather, from Livingston, is worth reproducing: ‘I was told that my daughter had Down’s when I was pregnant, and every doctor and gynaecologist I saw tried to convince me a termination was the best option. I was still offered this at 26 weeks!

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‘One reason given to me by a consultant was that “these babies put a strain on the NHS” .’

In a way, the medical profession’s attitude is understandable. The invasive detection method, a form of foetal blood extraction known as amniocentesis, involves a risk of miscarriage of 1 per cent.

Given the very large numbers of ‘false positives’ in the initial scanning process, this means the lives of lots of babies with no disability are lost as an accidental by-product.

According to the official register, for every 100 instances of Down’s syndrome detected, about 400 ‘normal’ pregnancies miscarry as a result of the amniocentesis.

No wonder medics put pressure on a pregnant woman to abort when a Down’s baby is detected: if she does not, then their system is made to look even more crazy and wasteful.

Last year, however, a team from King’s College London announced it had made significant progress in developing a reliable non-invasive test for Down’s syndrome in utero.

This was enthusiastically hailed by one newspaper as potentially leading to the ‘eradication of Down’s syndrome’.

Forgive me for not joining in the cheering.

And besides, what is being eradicated? Not the condition, but only the people with it. The condition will occur with exactly the same frequency as before: the only difference is that the alleged sufferers will never see the light of day.