I have been seeing a number of articles lately, excitedly reporting that “Non-invasive screening of pregnant women… has reduced the number of children born in Denmark with Down syndrome by 50 per cent.” (Medicexchange.com) Now that might sound like good news, until you realize that the method of prevention is by abortion. In fact, these enthusiastic articles are so careful about avoiding any reference to terminating pregnancy that I had to actually google “down’s syndrome abortion” to assure myself that this is actually the case.
This is a really difficult issue to talk about, even more so when you try to imagine what you would do in that situation. I would be devasted to think that any precious child of mine would be less than healthy in any way, but morally I believe abortion to be too extreme in the case of Down’s Syndrome.
Here is a Washington Post article by George Will that offers more information. He says that in America over 80 percent of babies diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome are aborted. Among such shocking news, is a story about a woman who chose to terminate her 28-week pregnancy because the baby had a cleft lip and palate.
The American Association of People with Disabilities worries that “increasingly sophisticated prenatal genetic testing technologies will mean that parents who are told their expected babies are less than perfect ‘will experience pressures to terminate their pregnancies from medical professionals and insurers.'” Parents of less-than-perfect babies are often pressured to abort, and are given misinformation about the quality of life their child can expect. This coupled with what Mr. Will calls “the perfection-is-an-entitlement attitude” is preventing more and more of these children from being born. His comment on the mother who aborted her baby with the cleft lip is also sharply thought-provoking: “The refusal [of the prosecutor to file charges against the mother] implies that any abnormality can qualify as a serious handicap because seriousness is determined not by its impact on the disabled person’s life chances but by the parents’ reluctance to be inconvenienced by it.”
Another article I read on LifeSite.net quotes Brian Skotko, a joint-degree student at Harvard Medical School and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, who has a 24-year-old sister with Down syndrome. He describes the medical profession’s abortion preferences as being invasive and unfair to pregnant women. If test results indicate Down’s Syndrome, many women do not want it presented as bad news. Rather, they want their doctor to provide them with realistic and accurate information.
“Physicians must now realize that many mothers who opt for prenatal testing have no intentions of terminating their pregnancies and are offended by their physicians’ assumptions that they would do so…”Skotko writes, “With the appropriate sensitivity and explanation, obstetricians can make the births of children with Down syndrome celebratory experiences for those mothers who choose to continue their pregnancies after receiving prenatal diagnoses.”