Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been forced to apologize after using the offensive term “retarded” — which is often a slur against people with Down syndrome or those who are mentally disabled.
His comments come at a time when babies with the medical condition are aborted in alarmingly high numbers — with some nations like Iceland and Denmark almost eliminating every person with Down syndrome.
Appearing on the One NYCHA podcast, Schumer used the word “retarded” in making a point about the challenge of overcoming community resistance to housing initiatives meant to serve vulnerable populations.
“When I first was an assemblyman, they wanted to build a congregate living place for retarded children — the whole neighborhood was against it,” Schumer said, referring to the time he spent representing parts of Brooklyn in the New York legislature from 1975 to 1980 prior to serving in Congress.
“These are harmless kids. They just needed some help,” he said, adding that the effort was ultimately successful. “We got it done. Took a while.”
The term is considered outdated and offensive by many, and advocates for people with mental and intellectual disabilities discourage its use. On Monday afternoon, a Schumer spokesperson said the majority leader erred in using such an “inappropriate and outdated word” during the interview.
“For decades, Sen. Schumer has been an ardent champion for enlightened policy and full funding of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “He is sincerely sorry for his use of the outdated and hurtful language.”
Sixteen states have enacted bans on one or more types of discrimination abortion – including 12 states that protect unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome. Polling shows that 70% of oppose abortion based on the expectation that an unborn child may have Down syndrome.
A separate poll released by SBA List this week of likely voters conducted by OnMessage Inc. finds a strong majority of voters reject abortion on demand and support limits on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The polling found that likely voters are much more likely to support Republican candidates who back a 15-week limit on abortion versus Democratic candidates who back unlimited abortion.
Discriminatory, eugenic abortions have become of increasing concern with the growing availability of prenatal genetic testing. Unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities are targeted for abortions at astronomical rates. Many believe sex-selection abortions also occur in the U.S., though data is limited.
A CBS News report shocked the nation with its exposure of the discriminatory abortion trend. According to the report, nearly 100 percent of unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland. The rate in France was 77 percent in 2015, 90 percent in the United Kingdom and 67 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2011, according to CBS.
Many parents also feel pressured by doctors and genetic counselors to consider abortion after a prenatal diagnosis. One mom recently told the BBC that she was pressured to abort her unborn daughter 15 times after she was diagnosed with Down syndrome, including right up to the time of her baby’s birth. In another case, a mother from Brooklyn, New York said doctors tried to convince her to abort her unborn son for weeks before they took no for an answer.
A recent study highlighted in Scientific American found evidence that families of children with Down syndrome often face negative, biased counseling and pressure to have abortions.
Other states with laws that protect unborn babies with disabilities include Arkansas, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Indiana. However, most are not in effect because of legal challenges.