By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
Editor’s note. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. We’ve been posting stories, new and old, all month.
I’ll never forget my eighth grade graduation party. It was held in a restaurant that had a large dance floor at the side complete with a Disco ball. I thought I was in heaven.
And then this angel appeared—a girl with Down syndrome, whom I had never met before. I assumed that she was the relative of someone who owned or worked for the restaurant. She cheerfully wanted to join the party and be part of the fun.
It is alarming that, in as many as 90 percent of the cases in which Down syndrome is detected in a preborn baby, the child’s life ends in abortion. Despite the vast resources available on the information superhighway known as the Internet, many misconceptions remain about children with an extra chromosome.
October marks Down Syndrome Awareness Month, so this is the perfect opportunity to share the truth about Down syndrome Americans and their lives.
As the National Down Syndrome Society website so eloquently states, “People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, have meaningful relationships, vote, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.”
You may also be surprised to know that life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades, from age 25 in 1983 to age 60 in 2017.
Recently, Pennsylvania state Senator Scott Martin of Lancaster introduced a resolution condemning the abortion of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome. It was truly inspiring to see so many lawmakers attend the press conference announcement, relating stories about the people with Down syndrome that they knew, admired, and loved.
Feminist Alice Paul once stated that abortion was the ultimate exploitation of women. So too, abortion of Down syndrome children can be considered the ultimate form of discrimination against people with disabilities. If you have been fortunate enough to have a friendship with a person with a disability, you recognize that you quickly forget to focus on the disability, and marvel at the abilities instead.
Sara is a senior at Central Bucks High School in Pennsylvania. She and her friends recently made a video in response to recent stories about the devastation abortion has caused Down syndrome children in Iceland.
Sara’s words of introduction to the video are profound:
“The people featured in this video are some of my best friends. The first one to share about her life is Cara Cushing. We have been best friends for ten years; we met in second grade and are now going into our senior year at Central Bucks High School South. Cara introduced me to this setting and has really shaped me into who I am today. Cara and I hang out all the time. We drive to school together, we have sleepovers, we go shopping, and much more.
“Everyone featured in the video participates in Camp PALS, an inclusive camp for young adults with Down syndrome. This past summer, I participated in two week-long overnight sessions, both at Cabrini University. At PALS, each young adult with Down syndrome is paired with someone who does not have it. The two stay in a dorm room together and go on adventures all week with other campers and counselors.
“I also participate in multiple clubs for special education students at my high school. One of the clubs I am very involved in is called Titans Connects. Titans Connect brings special education and non-special education students together in hopes to form friendships. We organize activities such as board games, holiday parties, and a prom at the end of the year.
“Through this video and other advocating, I aspire to show the world that my friends and all people with Down syndrome are human beings just like you and me. Down syndrome is not a disease. It is not a bad and scary thing. It is not something that we should get rid of. Nor should we get rid of people that have it.”
And one final note. When I was a secular journalist steeped in pro-abortion culture, I passed a young woman with Down syndrome one day on the street. In my skewed view, I saw her as a symbol of tremendous suffering. In my heart, I asked, “Why?” An answer quickly came to my mind, “They are here for you.”
Children with Down syndrome can teach all of us so much. Down syndrome lives matter, and should be protected before, during, and after birth. These individuals are a precious gift to our families, our communities, and our world.