Science and the Pro-Life Movement ought to be natural allies

By Leticia Velasquez

Editor’s note. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Leticia, who has written many times for NRL News Today, is co-founder of KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome), and author of “A Special Mother is Born.” 

During the media circus surrounding the confirmation hearings of now Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearings, I attended the Vita et Veritas Conference at Yale, a pro-life conference at a university which generally is known for being pro-abortion in the extreme.

The theme for the conference, run by the club, Choose Life at Yale, was, “Science and the Pro-life Movement.” The keynote speaker was pro-life activist Karen Gaffney whose name may be familiar to you.

Karen is known the world over for being a long-distance swimmer. She has swum Lake Tahoe, Lake Champlain, Dublin Harbor, and participated in a relay swim across the English Channel. What makes Karen a pro-life advocate, as she said, with a smile, “I happen to have Down syndrome.”

Recently, scientists have developed a new prenatal testing method for Down syndrome and other conditions. Non-invasive Prenatal Testing [NIPT] uses a blood sample taken from the pregnant woman and can be done from 9 or 10 weeks of pregnancy. NIPT threatens to increase the appalling abortion rate for children with these conditions, already now at 67% in the US and up to 93% in Europe. That spurred Ms Gaffney to add pro-life to her title as advocate.

I first met her a decade ago at a Down syndrome advocacy conference at CW Post University on Long Island. She was a self-advocate, an adult with Down syndrome who spoke out for the rights of those with trisomy 21 (or an extra copy of the 21st chromosome ) which defines Down syndrome.

In the audience, comprised mostly of Ivy League students from all over the country, a mother cradled Theo, a three-month-old infant son who was extraordinarily alert and strong for a baby with Down syndrome. His mother participated in a prenatal study, after receiving a prenatal diagnosis for her son of Down syndrome, to take medication to improve his mental and physical abilities.

In this instance prenatal testing was used to improve the health of a child with Down syndrome, as intended by the pro-life scientist Dr. Jerome Lejeune who developed the technology which made prenatal diagnosis possible, instead of destroying him. Science and the pro-life movement are natural allies. As science proves beyond doubt that life begins at conception and that the unborn child is a unique individual from her mother, reasonable people must conclude that a distinct individual has rights to be born regardless of how many chromosomes he has, or what her abilities are.

When I had a chance to meet Ms. Gaffney after the talk, I told her I admired her swimming as someone who cannot swim the length of the Olympic sized pool in my gym. She giggled, and hugged me. Not all of us are Ivy League graduates, or long distance swimmers, but we all have something to contribute to the world and deserve the opportunity to thrive as little Theo is doing.

There is a possibility that a case surrounding this issue will come before the Supreme Court—protecting the lives of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome who are aborted solely because of their disability.  As NRL News Today reported earlier this month, “Pro-lifers in Indiana are applauding the decision by Attorney General Curtis Hill to ask the Supreme Court to review and reverse a lower decision overturning the state’s law banning abortion for the sole reasons of the child’s race, sex, national origin or a potential disability such as Down syndrome.”

In his 41-page brief, Hill highlights the gigantic leaps forward in medical technology that are allowing women to choose whether to abort based on sex, race or disability.

“As genetic testing becomes more widely available and selective terminations of fetuses with disability diagnoses become more common, individuals already living with these same disabilities will no doubt receive the demeaning and stigmatizing message that they are not valued as productive members of society with equal human dignity,” the petition states.
“The non-discrimination provision is a qualitatively new type of abortion regulation, one that neither implicates the concerns underlying Roe and Casey nor burdens the right those cases ultimately protect. It regulates women who have already made the decision ‘to bear or beget a child,’ but simply do not want to bear a particular child.”

Hill ends his brief with this:

Only this Court can correct the lower court’s misperception that Roe and Casey bar this law. Accordingly, the Court should grant certiorari and uphold Indiana’s authority to put an end to eugenic abortions.

As we come to the end of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we can hope the United States Supreme shows awareness of the discrimination that is at the heart of eugenic abortion and agrees to hear Indiana’s defense of Indiana’s “Dignity for the Unborn Act,” also known as HEA 1337.