Missouri AG reminds us the depth of our loss when we target babies with Down syndrome

By Dave Andrusko

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt

Eric Schmitt is the pro-life attorney general of Missouri about whose energetic work on behalf of life we’ve gladly written about before.

Today, we’re combining (a) AG Schmitt’s role in leading a coalition of 22 states defending an Arkansas law that would prohibit abortions that are performed solely because the abortionist knows the woman has received a pre-natal Down syndrome diagnosis; and (b) a powerful piece he wrote for The Federalist.

With regard to Leslie Rutledge v. Little Rock Planning Services, Schmitt and his cohorts wrote 

People with Down Syndrome add unique joy, beauty, and diversity to our society. Yet the abortion of children with Down Syndrome approaches genocidal levels, threatening the Down Syndrome community with complete elimination. All States share Arkansas’ compelling interests in preventing the eradication of people with Down syndrome through the practice of eugenic abortion. …

The brief recounts the disturbing history of mistreatment, neglect, and abuse of people with Down syndrome by medical professionals in the past, and argues that when screening or diagnostic tests report the possibility of Down Syndrome, the counseling process is heavily tilted towards abortion, stating, “The counseling received by parents at that vulnerable moment heavily favors abortion. One survey found that, among women receiving genetic counseling, ‘83% reported they did not receive balanced counseling regarding the quality of life for children with disabilities.’”

On a very personal note, in The Federalist Schmitt elaborates on the inspirational stories of Chris Nikic and Grace Mehan.

On November 8, 2020, Chris Nikic became the first man with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon. An Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile open-water swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run — a full marathon. It’s an endurance test that less than 0.003 percent of able-bodied Americans can complete.

When asked why Chris became interested in the triathlon, his parents responded, “Ever since Chris was born, the doctors have told us that he’d never walk, that he’d never make friends, that he’d be confined to bed all day, and that his life would be miserable. Chris showed them that those were lies.”

Schmitt and his wife know of what they speak:

I am the parent of a severely disabled child, and I know first-hand the pain, the heartache, and the challenges of raising a child with special needs. My son Stephen was born with a rare genetic disease called Tuberous Sclerosis, causing tumors on his major organs. As a result, he is also on the autism spectrum, is non-verbal, and suffers from seizures.

Despite the struggles he’s faced, Stephen always has a positive, energetic attitude and brings immense joy to those around him. Coming home to see Stephen waiting for me on the porch with a big smile on his face never fails to brighten my day. Looking back on my life with my son, I wouldn’t change one single thing.

The same is true of parents and siblings of children with Down syndrome. While many in the medical community present expectant parents with a deeply negative picture of life with a Down syndrome child, empirical evidence demonstrates the exact opposite.

Schmitt concludes

If people with Down syndrome are eliminated, the loss to society would be incalculable. Their contribution to society is unique and irreplaceable. Glendale without Grace Mehan would be a less vibrant community. The Ironman Triathlon without Chris Nikic would be less inspiring. Their diversity strengthens us, their courage emboldens us, and their beauty inspires us to be better ourselves.

As Chris Nikic neared collapse during the marathon leg of his Ironman Triathlon, his father asked him, “Are you going to let your pain win, or let your dreams win?” He responded, “My dreams are going to win.” He completed the triathlon with 11 minutes to spare.