By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. Today is World Down Syndrome Day. The following appeared several years ago in NRL News Today.
I remember back to 2011 when the United Nations passed a resolution formally recognizing March 21 as World Down Syndrome Recognition Day. The following year I recall finding the stories split between celebrating the idea that we are finally beginning to recognize the abilities of people with Down syndrome (as did Kelly Rosati) and warning (as Mark Leach wrote) that “Unless regulations and laws are changed, there will be fewer people with Down syndrome to celebrate on future World Down Syndrome Days, making this year the high water mark of lives with Down syndrome.”
Unfortunately, the near-Doomsday prediction stories seem more in tune with the times. Iceland brags about soon being “free” of Down syndrome—not of the disability but all the children who would have Down syndrome.
In this post, I’d like to look back at what was being said in 2012.
Writing at Christianity Today, Kelly Rosati began by observing, “Despite huge advances in improving quality of life—life expectancy has doubled from 25 to 55 years in the last 30 years due to medication, therapies, and specialized surgery—the population of those with Down syndrome is barreling toward extinction.“
Rosati points to the simpler blood tests that can identify the ‘imperfect’ baby earlier in pregnancy. (The newer-yet tests are even more accurate.)
And while there are some differences, the consensus was/is that in the United States as many as 67% of women who are told their baby has Down syndrome will abort. Put those two together and there will be fewer and fewer children—and therefore adults—with Down syndrome.
At the time I had just written about a recent “wrongful life” decision won by the parents of a child with Down syndrome. They said they loved their child—no reason to doubt that—but would have aborted him had they known.
In response in a story that appeared in the New York Post, Paul Root Wolpe, director of the center for ethics at Emory University, said, “What you end up having is a world without people with Down syndrome.” He then added this ominous tag-on: “And the question becomes is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
You can read Kelly Rosati at christianitytoday.com; and Mark Leach here at thepublicdiscourse.com. And if you take the few minutes to read each, you will be glad you did.
These final remarks from Rosati spoke volumes then and now:
“With advances in genetic testing and the foretelling of the end of Down syndrome, I have to wonder who’s next. If a test can reveal future childhood diabetes or cancer, blindness, deafness, a propensity toward violence, and even ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) later in life, will couples choose abortion? What possible disability or disorder will be eradicated next? What will we as a society become as we strive to avoid suffering and hardship, and raise cultural expectations of normal? And if we see the preborn as just a mass of cells dividing and re-dividing, instead of as a real child with a soul, where will this path lead us?
“Even as I fear the answers to these questions and fight for the right of these individuals to a life of dignity, I acknowledge a great God who has the power to change hearts and minds. And when an individual with Down syndrome crosses my path, I will never see it as anything less than a reminder of what is good and holy.”
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