By Cassy Fiano
Since October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Jane Brody wrote a piece for the New York Times detailing advancements in prenatal testing. And while I’ve spoken multiple times about not blaming prenatal testing for the disgustingly high Down syndrome abortion rate, the two will seemingly always be linked. Brody’s article serves as a perfect case in point: she starts off her piece lamenting that a friend of hers was not given the choice to abort her child with Down syndrome.
More than 30 years ago, a 37-year-old friend of mine with an unplanned fourth pregnancy was told by her obstetrician that an amniocentesis was “too dangerous” and could cause a miscarriage. She ultimately bore a child severely affected by Down syndrome, which could have been detected with the test.
Today, my friend’s story would have a different trajectory. She would have a series of screening tests, and if the results suggested a high risk of Down syndrome, then an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (C.V.S.) to make the diagnosis. She’d be given the option to abort the pregnancy.
In the future, a woman who decides to continue a Down syndrome pregnancy may also be offered prenatal treatment to temper the developmental harm to the fetus.
Developmental harm to the fetus? Down syndrome isn’t some virus that slowly destroys your unborn child if not “tempered” by prenatal treatment. “Severely affected” by Down syndrome? You aren’t affected to a certain degree by Down syndrome. You either have the extra chromosome or you don’t. These are the words of a shockingly misinformed woman who has absolutely no clue what she is talking about – yet she is being given a platform to spew her uninformed drivel to millions of people, and to further negative, outdated stereotypes about Down syndrome while she’s at it.
Worst of all, however, is the insinuation that her friend could have avoided the tragedy of her child “severely affected” with Down syndrome had she only been given the amniocentesis, and then been able to have an abortion. Clearly, many women make that exact choice, so it isn’t a shocking or crazy thought. But I can’t help but wonder what her friend actually thinks.
It’s a lot easier to be afraid of the unknown when you have a prenatal diagnosis – and can therefore choose abortion – than it is to look at a living, breathing child whom you’re holding in your arms and think, “Gee, my life would be so much better if I could smother you with a pillow.”
Does Brody’s friend regret having her child with Down syndrome? It’s possible, but I’d be willing to bet that she loves her child and does not regret having him or her in her life. There aren’t many parents out there who look at their children and think about how they wish they could have killed them when they had the chance—they exist, but they’re rare.
Regardless of how this woman’s friend feels, though, this is yet another example of why so many parents feel the need to get an abortion after receiving a prenatal diagnosis. The testing isn’t the problem – that’s just a tool. Instead, we have people like Jane Brody, who have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about, making a diagnosis of Down syndrome appear to be a tragedy, and acting like these people are problems to be avoided if possible.
Never does Brody mention the amazing advancements in medicine that have more than doubled the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome; she does not mention that improved education and early intervention programs are allowing people with Down syndrome to do and achieve more than they ever have before. (Perhaps this is where she gets the idea that her friend’s child, born three decades ago, is “severely affected” – these programs and medical advancements didn’t exist then.)
Instead, the article peddles the same old tired, negative, outdated stereotypes. It presents prenatal testing as a chance to weed out any children who might be defective. Jane Brody had an opportunity here to actually educate and create more awareness about Down syndrome. Instead, she did the exact opposite.
Shame on her.
Editor’s note. This appeared at liveactionnews.org.
Cassy Fiano is a blogger currently living in North Carolina with her husband, a United States Marine. They have a toddler named Ben, and a second son named Wyatt, who has Down syndrome.