The month of October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Down syndrome is associated with intellectual disabilities, delays in physical growth, and characteristic facial features. Every year around 6,000 babies are born with trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). Down syndrome is too often misunderstood. There are many dangerous myths surrounding the quality of life for people with Down syndrome. Since medicine continues to advance, the lifespan of people with Down syndrome has increased. People with Down Syndrome’s longevity has grown from 12 years in the 1960s to around 60 years today. They lead rich and full lives that are valuable to society. Down Syndrome Awareness month is an opportunity to explain the important link between Down syndrome and the pro-life movement.
A prenatal diagnosis should not be a death sentence.
In 2011, noninvasive prenatal screenings were introduced with increased accuracy in determining the diagnosis of a fetus at the gestational age of 15-20 weeks. For many women, the news is delivered by medical professionals with a negative connotation and with abortion as a solution to their “problem.” In an article on BBC News, a woman from the UK describes her experience where doctors offered to terminate her child with Down syndrome 15 times throughout her pregnancy. Her experience illuminates the pressure that many women receive from medical professionals to pursue abortion. Medical professionals work under the Hippocratic oath to do no harm, yet they often coerce their patients to end the life of their child when it is not medically necessary. No mother should feel pressured to end their child’s life because of their genetic makeup. This is discrimination at its core.
True equality means that everyone should have a chance at life.
Society continues to step toward better treatment and equality of those diagnosed with Down syndrome, but there are still many prejudices that exist. These prejudices begin as early as the time of diagnosis upon prenatal screening. According to studies, approximately 60-90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in the U.S. This bias is not unique to the United States. Iceland reportedly aborts nearly 100% of their babies diagnosed with Down syndrome. Discrimination against babies diagnosed with Down syndrome is a global issue that begins at conception.
Furthermore, a culture that preaches equality but assumes the right to determine the value of any given human life is not a culture of true equity. No one should have the power to choose whether a baby has a chance at life. Down syndrome is not as uncommon as you might think. Specifically, 1 in 700 babies will be born with an extra chromosome. Unborn babies with or without Down syndrome are equally vulnerable. We have to fight to protect the vulnerable of society.
Reducing the value of any human life is never okay.
Our society argues that the challenges or struggles a baby might endure including being adopted, being born into a low-income family, or being placed into foster care, are a basis for ending their life. People with Down syndrome are an example of the fallacy of this argument. Despite the challenge of learning disabilities and discrimination, they ultimately overcome and live happy and healthy lives. They prove that no one should decide whether another’s life is worth living.
Colorado Springs mom of a child with Down Syndrome, Amanda Morris, believes wholeheartedly with this quote from an anonymous author on Facebook.
“I hope for a day when doctors still smile at the ultrasound screen when they learn that a child has Down syndrome. That their voices would be full of hope when delivering the news, aware of the joy this child could bring. I hope parents’ minds spin with the possibility and wonder as they envision a new future for their family. Because they may not know it yet, but they are the luckiest.”
Amanda calls herself one of the lucky few.
This Down Syndrome Awareness month, join our efforts to be a voice for the voiceless, and consider donating below!