Before Zoey and Jake O’Hehir found out that their unborn daughter had Down syndrome, their doctor already had scheduled an abortion.
The O’Hehirs recently shared how shocked they were by their doctor’s discriminatory presumptions in an interview with ABC News Australia. Their story is deeply disturbing, but it represents a common discriminatory trend in modern medicine regarding unborn babies with disabilities.
Zoey O’Hehir, a teacher from New South Wales, said she received the call from her doctor’s office one day while she was in front of her class.
First, the doctor told her that her unborn daughter tested positive for Down syndrome; then, he told her that he had scheduled an appointment for her to get an abortion, O’Hehir said.
“It was very scary and just the mention of termination struck a nerve,” she told ABC. “Before I could say anything, before I could process anything or even breathe,” he scheduled the abortion.
The O’Hehirs rejected their doctor’s plan to have their daughter aborted. But they continued to receive inadequate and discriminatory information about their daughter’s condition.
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The O’Hehirs said they were told to “expect the worst” and there was “next to nothing” that doctors could do for their unborn daughter. The medical predictions about their daughter’s future also were grim: They said they were told that she would be stillborn, die soon after birth or be on permanent dialysis.
None of that happened.
Arlee was born seven months ago. Though she does have Down syndrome, her mother said she has been meeting all the normal milestones for a baby her age.
“She’s amazing and has brought so much happiness to our life,” Zoey O’Hehir said. “She may have a little bit of low muscle tone, which comes with Down syndrome, but other than that she’s honestly just like a normal baby.”
A recent study by Down Syndrome Australia found that medical professionals frequently pressure families to have abortions after a prenatal diagnosis, according to the report.
“To hear families being repeatedly asked about termination and not supported in their decision [to proceed with the pregnancy] is a case of neglect,” DSA chief executive Ellen Skladzien said.
Unborn babies with disabilities frequently are targeted for abortions. ABC News reports an estimate 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in Australia are aborted. But the problem is world-wide.
Earlier this year, another mother from Scotland told the Daily Record that she felt shocked by the pressure she faced to abort her now 9-year-old son because he has Down syndrome. She said she was asked twice if she wanted to abort him: once at 24 weeks and once at 37 weeks of pregnancy.
According to the Atlantic, in Denmark, 95 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Several years ago, CBS News reported 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 UK and 67 percent in the United States.
Recent stories of families pressured to abort children with Down syndrome include:
New Zealand – Doctor asks mother in labor if she wants her baby with Down syndrome to be left to die (National Right to Life News)
England – Doctors Told Mom to Abort Her Son Weeks Before Birth Because He Had Down Syndrome, She Refused (Lancashire News)
Scotland – Doctors Told Mom Twice to Abort her Baby Because He Had Down Syndrome, She Refused (Daily Record)