By Leticia Velasquez Co-founder of KIDS Keep Infants with Down Syndrome
Mike Sullivan, an engineer, and the father of 3 year old Rebecca with Down syndrome is concerned that soon there will be no more babies born like her in his native New Zealand. A new policy had recently been implemented by the Ministry of Health requiring doctors to offer pre-natal screening to all pregnant women. Sullivan is expressing his concerns in two forums; International Criminal Court and the court of public opinion in order to fight what he sees as eugenic motives against those with Down syndrome. He calls his initiative, “Eugenics; the Practice of Selective Breeding of the Human Race”. Is the Ministry of Health targeting babies with Down syndrome to order to eliminate them from the population?
Mike is spokesman for a group which intends laying charges in the International Criminal Court against the New Zealand Government because of this program. The group may have a daunting opponents in the International Criminal Court, however it has a potent weapon; the media. Sullivan was interviewed on a “60 Minutes” documentary “Down not Out” recently on New Zealand television http://www.tv3.co.nz/Jun-12—Down-But-Not-Out/tabid/2059/articleID/71663/Default.aspx
The documentary showed individuals with Down syndrome living normal, happy lives and included an interview of parent De-Anne Jensen who said, “Government documents say it costs less not to have children with Down syndrome around, so it looks like they are working to do away with Down syndrome. It’s cheaper; you don’t have to pay for the special needs things. The Government and medical experts are putting a monetary value on our baby’s lives.”
The parents’ complaint references Government Cabinet papers stating the outcomes of the program will be a reduction in the number of births of people with Down syndrome. Even though the incidence of the percentage of babies born with Down syndrome births rises statistically with age, more babies with Down syndrome are actually born to younger mothers simply because they have more children. With around 90% of unborn children diagnosed with the condition being terminated, it is reasonable to expect that expanding the testing to women under 35 will cause a tremendous spike in abortions of babies with Down syndrome.
This reminds these New Zealand parents of the T4 Program, the Nazi eugenics program which murdered the disabled, who were labeled “useless eaters” and which the UN intended to prevent through treaties such as The Rome Statute. The persecution of an identifiable group of the civilian population through the prevention of births is specifically prohibited under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which New Zealand is signatory. (http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/romefra.htm)
Sullivan said, “It devalues the lives of our children. The Government says its program is consistent with international best practice. For us as parents, it’s deeply offensive to say that ‘best practice’ is something that would prevent our children from being born.” He asserts that “people with Down syndrome and other disabilities are human beings who live full and rewarding lives. They must be treated on an equal basis with other members of our society, without any form of discrimination.”.