By Eileen Haupt
Among the thousands and thousands of high schools, colleges, churches, and pro-life organizations participating in the 2013 March for Life in Washington, D.C., there was a group representing individuals who are specifically sought out and targeted for abortion–unborn babies with Down syndrome. Keep Infants with Down Syndrome (KIDS) met for the fifth year in a row at the headquarters of the National Right to Life Committee before heading over to join the other several hundred thousands of participants in the March for Life.
Leticia Velasquez and I started KIDS in 2008 so that individuals with Down syndrome could be represented in the March for Life. Our purpose is to raise awareness of the tragically high abortion rate of babies with Down syndrome. It is estimated that about 90 percent of babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome while still in the womb are aborted.
The plight of unborn babies with Down syndrome is expected to be even more critical, as non-invasive tests that diagnose the condition in the first trimester come onto the market and become more commonly administered. An early diagnose, when abortion is less complicated, does not bode well for these unborn babies, but we hope that awareness of the joy our children bring our families will make a difference.
As has been the case for several years, we were thrilled to have Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers join us as our special guest at the NRLC headquarters. She herself is a mother of child with Down syndrome, 5-year-old Cole. She is married to Brian Rodgers and also has a 2-year-old daughter named Grace. The congresswoman represents the 5th District of the State of Washington and is founder and co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus.
She spoke to us about her journey to the Congress and her experience in discovering Cole had Down syndrome. She also informed us that she is still pursuing passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, funding for Down syndrome research, and funding for the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2008.
The children attending love to present the congresswoman with gifts and letters. This year, 10-year-old Ben Jackson, attending with his dad, Marc, presented her a short pro-life speech, which she read aloud at his request. This very gracious congresswoman always takes the time to talk with families and pose for pictures with those in attendance.
Although KIDS was formed so that families who have a child with Down syndrome could walk together in the March for Life, other groups have attended our event, to show their support and love for unborn babies with Down syndrome. Each year, Ron and Anita Setran, parents of 9-year-old Kiersten who has Down syndrome, bring members of Youth With a Mission, a non-denominational missionary organization of which the Setrans are staff members. This year, about 30 YWAM members, who were to leave for China in a few days, joined the Setrans at NRLC and in the march.
Another group joining KIDS was Fatima Caravan #265, International Order of Alhambra, a Catholic men’s organization whose mission includes protecting “the weak and vulnerable.” Led by Ryan Mullen, the caravan enthusiastically supports KIDS each year, joining us at NRLC and walking with us in the march, carrying their handmade KIDS signs.
Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers summed up the feelings of many parents of children with Down syndrome:
“Cole has been one of the best things that has ever happened in my life….I feel like I see the whole world through a totally different perspective…Cole has impressed upon me anew that each one of us is wonderfully and fearfully made, and that each one of us can contribute to this world in unique ways….He makes me a better legislator, a better person.”
We are so thankful the families, individuals, and groups, who brave the elements and crowds to join us at NRLC each year. We invite individuals with Down syndrome and their families and friends to join us next year.
For more information, please visit our blog at http://keepinfantswithdownsyndrome.blogspot.com