Last month, pro-life advocate for children with Down syndrome Kurt Kondrich shared his story. Kondrich gave one of the closing speeches at the National Right to Life Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. Catholic Philly reports that as the proud father shared his story, many in the audience were moved to tears.
Kondrich’s 16-year-old daughter, Chloe, is a vibrant and outgoing girl who has Down syndrome. When Kondrich’s wife, Margie, was expecting their beloved daughter, prenatal testing was not yet widely available as the only options were invasive. Kondrich explained that in recent years, prenatal testing has become much more widely available. He said, “Now it is a blood test and it can tell you all sorts of things, but especially if your child has Down syndrome.”
Because they did not undergo prenatal screening, Kondrich and his wife learned that Chloe likely had Down syndrome after she was delivered by caesarian section. They were coldly informed by the doctor that Chloe had “characteristics of Down syndrome.” Kondrich said, “I didn’t know much about it at the time, but I asked if I could hold her. The doctor looked at me surprised and said, ‘Oh, you want to hold her?’”
This stunning moment when the Kondrich’s precious newborn daughter was treated as less than human simply because of a perceived disability opened Kondrich’s eyes to the rampant discrimination that families of children with disabilities face. Now that prenatal genetic screening is widely available and minimally invasive, this discrimination begins before birth.
In the years following Chloe’s birth, Kondrich saw how Chloe was an incredible gift to his family and to the world. And he saw how babies with Down syndrome like Chloe were being identified and targeted for death due to a socially accepted form of eugenics. He explained, “If your test shows a presence of Down syndrome, it is like you failed the test and it is therefore a death sentence for the child. It is like they are saying, ‘You aren’t going to meet the cultural mandate that we have set for our society so you can’t be born.’”
Since learning about the extent of the devastation wrought by prenatal testing, Kondrich has become an outspoken advocate for children with Down syndrome. He even left his job as a police officer to become a full-time advocate for vulnerable children targeted by prenatal testing. He has written that he did not see this career change as a dramatic transition but instead an extension of what it means to “serve and protect,” first as a police officer and then as an advocate for children.
Kondrich’s main focus is on reaching parents with a message of hope. He explained to the audience at the National Right to Life Convention, “We need to empower people so that they are armed with the knowledge of what to do with the results of their prenatal test, rather than listening to a doctor that tells them just to terminate.” Mothers, like Sara Maroun, who face tremendous pressure to end their child’s life in abortion following a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome deserve to know the many abilities and gifts that children with Down syndrome have. They deserve to know that they don’t have to be afraid of Down syndrome, even with the medical challenges that can be associated with the condition. More than anything, parents deserve to know that a disability or medical condition identified before birth does not in anyway detract from the humanity and dignity of their child.
Kondrich has not been alone in his work. By his side through much of it he has had his beautiful daughter Chloe. She has met world leaders and celebrities, and next month she will once again be featured in Times Square. Chloe also inspired Chloe’s Law, Pennsylvania legislation passed in 2014.
Kondrich told the audience that this law requires the Pennsylvania Department of Health to provide parents with “up-to-date, evidence-based information about Down syndrome that has been reviewed by medical experts and national Down syndrome organizations.” Included in this hopeful and supportive information are treatment options, support services available, resources, and information about local and national Down syndrome advocacy organizations. Catholic Philly notes that since the passage of Chloe’s Law eight other states have passed similar laws to offer encouragement and support to parents of children diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome.
Kondrich calls himself a “dad-vocate” for Down syndrome children. He said, “I know why God put me on this earth and it’s to fight for the lives of children like Chloe.” Children with Down syndrome are not the only people targeted for death in the womb. Throughout his years of advocacy, Kondrich has asked the sobering question, “Who will be next to be identified, targeted and eliminated because they don’t meet the lost cultural mandates for misguided perfection?”