The “inappropriateness” of showing happy families whose children have Down Syndrome

By Dave Andrusko

downsyndromesmile3reKudos many times over to columnist George Will for his latest, “The ‘right’ to be spared from guilt.”

We’ve posted previously about a morally tone-deaf decision by France’s highest administrative court to prohibit a two-minute video that dared to portray children with Down syndrome and their families in a positive light. But Will’s column examines this stunning decision with brilliant and acute insight

As you may recall, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation prepared “Dear Future Mom” (as Will puts it) “to assuage the anxieties of pregnant women who have learned that they are carrying a Down syndrome baby.”

The video understands the enormous pressure put on women when this prenatal diagnosis is made. In the video, several children with Down syndrome address a mom contemplating abortion.

“Dear future mom,” says one, “don’t be afraid.” “Your child will be able to do many things,” says another. “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”

But, beating Scrooge to the punch, last month the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, upheld the prior decision made by France’s High Audiovisual Council to remove the commercial from the air. Goodness, why?!

Because, according to Will, “the video’s depiction of happy Down syndrome children was “inappropriate”– it was ,the Council of State concluded, “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices,” less euphemistically known as abortion.

Will, whose son Jon has Down syndrome, as many of you know, was incensed. Here is the powerful conclusion to which nothing need be added:

A video that accurately communicates a truthful proposition — that Down syndrome people can be happy and give happiness — should be suppressed because some people might become ambivalent, or morally queasy, about having chosen to extinguish such lives. . . .

This is why the video giving facts about Down syndrome people is so subversive of the flaccid consensus among those who say aborting a baby is of no more moral significance than removing a tumor from a stomach. Pictures persuade. Today’s improved prenatal sonograms make graphic the fact that the moving fingers and beating heart are not mere “fetal material.” They are a baby. Toymaker Fisher-Price, children’s apparel manufacturer OshKosh, McDonald’s and Target have featured Down syndrome children in ads that the French court would probably ban from television.

The court has said, in effect, that the lives of Down syndrome people — and by inescapable implication, the lives of many other disabled people — matter less than the serenity of people who have acted on one or more of three vicious principles:

That the lives of the disabled are not worth living.

Or that the lives of the disabled are of negligible value next to the desire of parents to have a child who has no special, meaning inconvenient, needs.

Or that government should suppress the voices of Down syndrome children in order to guarantee other people’s right not to be disturbed by reminders that they have made lethal choices on the basis of one or both of the first two inappropriate principles.

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