By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
March 21st, this past Sunday, is considered World Down Syndrome Day, a designation for honoring those who have an extra copy of chromosome 21. But stigmas and misinformation still abound.
I heard recently about someone who said he supported the abortion of babies with Down syndrome. The individual reasoned that children with Down syndrome would lead “horrible lives,” and thus, the abortions in his mind were justified for so-called “humanitarian” reasons.
How misguided and misinformed this individual is.
In Pennsylvania, Republican state Senator Scott Martin (Lancaster County), a champion of children with special needs, hopes to pass a resolution officially recognizing World Down Syndrome Day in Pennsylvania.
In his co-sponsorship memo, Sen. Martin provides clear evidence of the tremendous progress made by people with Down syndrome, both in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and throughout the world.
And because of miraculous medical advances, the “median age of people with Down syndrome is now 58,” according to Brian Skotko. “As recently as 1983, the average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome was 25 years,” the Global Down Syndrome Foundation reports.
As Sen. Martin states, “This shows that when given the opportunities associated with early intervention, therapies, quality education, and support from families and the community, individuals with Down syndrome can adapt and thrive.”
Sadly, however, the abortion rate for babies with Down syndrome remains high. Worldwide, it has been estimated that the vast majority of babies who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis are aborted. That is why legislation such as Pennsylvania’s Chloe’s Law is so important. The law ensures that pregnant women who receive a Down syndrome prenatal diagnosis receive support and resources. This support can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Meanwhile, people with Down syndrome are challenging limits and artificially-set boundaries every day.
“As a result of changing attitudes, these individuals have gone on to be productive, influential and inspirational members of societies across the world,” Sen. Martin said.
People with Down syndrome are a tremendous blessing to their families, their workplaces, their schools, and their communities. We need to share more of these stories so that, when couples learn that their preborn babies are likely to have Down syndrome, they will not be fearful.
Education and support can wipe out the fear, enabling families to embrace these special children with the love they deserve.