Abortion Of Babies Diagnosed With Down Syndrome
October is Down Syndrome Month, and opinions abound on the ethical issue of aborting a child diagnosed to have Down syndrome. Opinion articles are appearing everywhere presenting the pros and cons of abortion as an option to having a Down syndrome child. However, this isn’t the reason for Down Syndrome Month. Rather, it is a time to educate people about the myths and truths of the most commonly occurring chromosonal condition occurring in the U.S. today.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome occurs when a baby is born with an extra chromosome. Usually a baby has 46 chromosomes, but Down syndrome babies have an extra copy of chromosome 21, and this results in both physical and mental issues for that child, ranging from mild to severe. Down syndrome is not hereditary, and there is no known cause.
Children with Down syndrome have varying degrees of physical differences; such as, a flatter face, somewhat slanted eyes, smaller stature, etc. They can also have some developmental disabilities and medical problems; such as, heart defects, stomach problems, eye issues, etc. None of these are life threatening, however, as long as they are corrected.
Just a few decades ago a diagnosis of Down syndrome was a nightmare for parents and a near death sentence for the child. The children back in the 1960’s and even later were immediately institutionalized and hidden away from society, receiving no help or education whatsoever. Thank God things have changed dramatically.
How often does Down Syndrome occur?
Statistics show that about 1 in every 691 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, and it is estimated that there are about 400,000 people with Down syndrome living in the U.S. today. Down syndrome knows no racial, age, or economic boundaries.
Why are Down Syndrome babies aborted?
With advancements in medical technology, Down syndrome can now be diagnosed prenatally. Screening through ultrasound and maternal serum tests can determine the likelihood of Down syndrome, but only a diagnostic test of amniocentesis or chorionic villi (CVS) sampling can give a definitive diagnosis of Down syndrome. These diagnostic tests are done at about 10-12 weeks of pregnancy. Unfortunately, of the mothers choosing these tests and having positive results, about 90% of them choose to abort the Down syndrome baby.
Most of these parents have no idea what the life of a Down syndrome child is like for either the parents or the child. They only hear what they perceive as a terrible diagnosis, and oftentimes the doctor encourages the parents to abort the “defective” child and try again. Unfortunately, in their shock and despair, they most often jump to the quick abortion decision before even educating themselves about their child and the life he/she would live
Are Down Syndrome babies ever born and left to die?
Sadly, when Down syndrome babies are born to parents who are unaware of the abnormality in their baby before birth, they have sometimes made the decision to “let the baby die.” These babies sometimes die because some sort of physical problem is not corrected by surgery, or they are left to die of starvation and dehydration.
What kind of life do Down Syndrome children have?
Now that we have left the dark ages of institutions for Down syndrome and learned that early intervention can make all the difference in the world, the prognosis for Down syndrome children and adults has changed dramatically. The vast majority of families with a Down syndrome child seek out therapy, tutoring, and good education, instead of killing them. A number of these lucky Down children go on to graduate from high school and even college.
It has been proven that family and community support coupled with good educational programs enable Down syndrome children to develop their full potential and lead productive and happy lives.
With the light now shining on these individuals, businesses are seeking out Down syndrome adults for employment in all kinds of positions. Some have even been seen acting in popular television series. There are also many stories of Down syndrome teens and adults excelling in various ways.
For example, a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is owned by 26-year-old Tim Harris, a man with Down syndrome. Tim graduated from high school in 2004 and went on to graduate from Eastern New Mexico University. With some help from his parents he opened Tim’s Place in 2010, which is billed as the world’s friendliest restaurant.
Likewise, Down syndrome weightlifter, Johnathan Stoklosa, from Delaware recently appeared on CBS’s On the Road With Steven Hartman. Johnathan balances his job in a grocery store with his love of the sport of weightlifting. He can bench press 400 pounds.
Then there’s the 17-year-old high school junior, Karrie Brown, from Illinois who had several physical issues at birth requiring surgeries. Now she’s an honor student and volunteers at the library. In addition, she has become a teen model. After her mom took a photo of her on the first day of school and posted it on facebook, they got so much positive feedback that the clothing store, Wet Seal, asked her to model more of their clothing.
All of these are the very same people who used to be institutionalized and put out of sight from the normal people who might be uncomfortable in their presence. We have come a very long way in how we see and treat people in our society who have any type of physical or mental disability. Thank God for that. But let’s hope we can go much further and also protect the one’s who can’t speak for themselves.
Should Down Syndrome babies be aborted?
As people become better educated about Down syndrome, hopefully resulting in more compassion on their parts, perhaps we can welcome greater numbers of these caring individuals into our midst. For the first time in March of this year, the state of North Dakota actually passed a law prohibiting the abortion of babies with disabilities, including Down syndrome. As we build more ramps and elevators and create more access to public places, let us also give the right to life to disabled Americans. After all, a society is measured by how it treats its weakest members.