Skip to comments.Down Syndrome and the Pressure to Abort
Posted on 03/09/2006 5:38:33 PM PST by NYer
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, MARCH 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Many prospective parents are waiting for years to adopt children with Down syndrome, according to a recent article in the Associated Press.
So why is there an extended wait for kids with special needs, who are usually more difficult to place with families? The reason might be: the growing acceptance of aborting babies with Down syndrome.
Elizabeth Schiltz, law professor at the University of St. Thomas and contributor to "The Cost of 'Choice': Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion" (Encounter Books), shared with ZENIT how aborting children with Down syndrome has not only become justified, but is almost considered a duty.
Schiltz also relayed her experience in receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for her son.
Q: Why do you think it has become socially acceptable to abort a child with Down syndrome?
Schiltz: Because, unfortunately, it has become socially acceptable to abort any baby who disappoints the expectations of the baby's parents for any reason, as the increasingly common practice of sex-selection abortion indicates.
Down syndrome just happens to be a disability that is easily identified through prenatal testing.
Not only have many come to accept that a woman faced with such news is justified in aborting her child, some now go further and insist that she has a duty to abort.
Bob Edwards, the scientist who created Great Britain's first in vitro fertilization baby, gave a speech a couple of years ago at an international fertility conference in which he said, "Soon it will be a sin for parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children."
This is frightening. It signals an erosion of societal consensus about our collective responsibility for vulnerable people.
Society will increasingly believe that a mother who forgoes an easy abortion and chooses instead to give birth to a disabled child should not look to the community for help. After all, it was her "choice."
Q: Has prenatal testing contributed to the problem?
Schiltz: Prenatal testing has made the population of children with Down syndrome more vulnerable to abortion, because it's so easy to identify them. But the real problem isn't the testing.
The real problem is using the results of these tests as part of a crude "cost-benefit" analysis -- of balancing the "benefit" of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome against the "cost" to the mother and the broader society.
Obviously, such a cost-benefit analysis ignores the fundamental truth that every human is created in the image and likeness of God.
And, even on its own utilitarian terms, this analysis is often faulty because it rarely involves adequate information about the realities of living with Down syndrome -- either for the baby or the baby's family.
Brian Skotko, a Harvard Medical School student, published a pair of studies in the medical journals Pediatrics and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology just last year, concluding that few mothers were satisfied with the manner in which their doctors delivered pre- or post-natal diagnoses of Down syndrome, or the information provided by their doctors when they gave these diagnoses.
I applaud efforts like the bill introduced in Congress last year by Senators Brownback and Kennedy, called the Prenatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act, that would require healthcare providers to provide up-to-date, scientific information about prenatally diagnosed conditions and referrals to support services.
I'd like them to amend the bill to add information about the waiting lists for adoption of kids with Down syndrome.
Q: The Associated Press recently reported that many families are choosing to adopt children with Down syndrome and sometimes have to wait years. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
Schiltz: I am thrilled that this has finally caught the attention of the mainstream press. The newsletters and Internet listservs of Down syndrome support groups have been talking about this for years.
In fact, I know a woman who runs an adoption agency, Huminska's Anioly, that specializes in placing children from Polish orphanages in homes in the United States.
When she heard about the waiting lists at American adoption agencies for children with Down syndrome a couple of years ago, she started a special program for children in Polish orphanages with Down syndrome.
In the States, there's another resource: the Adoption Awareness Program -- Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.
Q: What was your experience in receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for your child?
Schiltz: I think my experience of receiving the prenatal diagnosis for my son was somewhat atypical, because my doctors knew that abortion was not an option for me. Even so, three things about the process were really striking.
First, there is a phenomenal amount of pressure to make decisions quickly, because the whole system is geared to result in earlier and therefore "safer" abortions. The pressure to act quickly in these situations not only increases risk to the baby, but I think it must often prevent parents from thinking through realistic alternatives to abortion.
Second, I was struck by how little positive information about life with Down syndrome the doctors and genetic counselors were able to provide me. Although my doctor was very supportive of my decision, neither she nor our genetic counselor had any helpful information to share about life with Down syndrome.
Third, even though I was pro-life, and even though I spent my whole life loving my mentally retarded older brother, getting the actual diagnosis was extremely traumatic.
For days afterward, I hesitated to put my hands on my belly. I felt as though a stranger had moved in, and he frightened me. For weeks afterward, I felt as though I had lost my entire identity.
I had never perceived of myself as a person with a child with a disability. I had always perceived of myself as a person with "perfect" children. I didn't know how I could continue with the life I had always planned for myself.
But, gradually, I started to love that little "stranger" just as strongly as I loved the old vision of what he would be. And, gradually, I realized that my old self was still there, it just had some new things to learn.
Personally, I'm glad that I was able to go through that trauma before my child was born. But it's important to be sensitive to how devastating this kind of news can be to any parent.
Q: How are people with Down syndrome an important and special part of our society?
Schiltz: In her book, "The Child Who Never Grew," Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck wrote this about her mentally retarded daughter: "[B]y this most sorrowful way I was compelled to tread, I learned respect for reverence for every human mind.
"It was my child who taught me to understand so clearly that all people are equal in their humanity and that all have the same human rights. None is to be considered less, as a human being, than any other, and each must be given his place and his safety in the world.
"I might never have learned this in any other way. I might have gone on in the arrogance of my own intolerance for those less able than myself. My child taught me humanity."
In addition to teaching me about humanity, I also think that my son has taught me something about divinity. I think my love for him sometimes provides a hint of what God's love for us must be like.
Like my love for my son, God's love for us doesn't depend on our intellect, our accomplishments or our proximity to what society defines as "success."
People with Down syndrome wear their vulnerability on their faces. They are a visible reminder that the image of God reflected in humanity includes people of all sorts of intellectual capacities.
It would be an impoverished society indeed that succeeded in eliminating such powerful teachers of both humanity and divinity.
I recently encountered this 'mentality' while collecting donations for a baby born with a genetic disorder that required immediate surgery. The office was comprised totally of democratic constituents. They gave not one dime. Meanwhile, the adjacent office, comprised of republicans, not only contributed to the child's surgery but also adopted her family and provided them with everything on their Christmas wish list.
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Should people who know they are having a baby with Downs Syndrome be allowed to abort?
"If we can`t route them out, we`ll breed them out."
If they ever do find a "gay gene", people may terminate pregnancies based on that. I wonder what libs will do since they support abortions and gay rights. Quite a dilemma.
I think I'm speechless.
Don't forget mothers who abort every daughter they produce, looking for a son. You think the feminists will be able to bite their tongues and sit on their hands for that? They have so far...
Disabled babies also come with very attractive stipends from the state and federal government.
Great article. Thanks for posting.
"Many prospective parents are waiting for years to adopt children with Down syndrome, according to a recent article in the Associated Press."
Why would so many people be specially waiting to try get a child with Down's syndrome?
Eugenics is back.
They support gay rights and militant Islam, yet don't think it much of a contradiction.
I've known several people with Down's; they have more than a normal amount of emotional problems, but these are easily treated with counseling and medication. Generally they are very kind and loving people -- it is sickening that people would want to murder them.
my grand daughter was diagnosed as carrying a Down's baby, the perfectly normal result of her pregnancy can be seen by clicking my screen name.
I have a Catholic friend who avoided getting a amniocentesis, even though she was in the high risk group, just because of this dilemma.
Beautiful babe. Yeah, they get it wrong too often.
..for a start. If someone has their heart set on adopting a mentally disabled child, they shouldn't have a problem finding them.
A guy I work with came to me upset. He and his wife were expecting their 4 child. The Doctor told them the child had Down's Syndrome. They were thinking about an abortion.
He asked my opinion and I told him that I thought he should choose life. He and his wife talked to a few other people and agreed, that no matter what they were going to have the child.
The little girl was born and did not have Down's Syndrome.
Now they are expecting their 5th child. Caught up to me.
What, in your opinion, are the politically correct reasons to abort children?
At least Hitler advocated that the members of the "master race" reproduce themselves. The new master race doesn't care what happens after they leave.
"Should people who know they are having a baby with Downs Syndrome be allowed to abort?"
"This type of abortion should be definently outlawed."
Faith is courage. Our elites constantly take counsel of their fears.
So was a friend of mine, with the same result. She was strongly counseled to have the child aborted, but just could not bring herself to do it. Not under any circumstances. Turns out that the test for Down's can give a false positive if they have the age of the baby off by a significant amount.
I wonder how many perfectly normal babies have been killed, and how many parents have been denied a child, because of this?
Wow. That's the best argument against so far.
Wow. Second such story on the thread. I'm sold.
Children with Down's Syndrome are by the vast majority the sweetest children you will ever meet. I have never met a Down's Syndrome child who wasn't one of gentlest, sweetest, most beautiful souls on the planet.
"If they ever do find a "gay gene", people may terminate pregnancies based on that. I wonder what libs will do since they support abortions and gay rights. Quite a dilemma."
Indeed! A Down Syndrome child is a blessing for they bring innocent joy into the home. What a sad world without these beautiful children.
"I wonder how many perfectly normal babies have been killed, and how many parents have been denied a child, because of this?"
The Dr., to his credit, did not councel my grand daughter to get an abortion. I look at my perfectly normal great grand son and wonder how many beautiful babies like him have been killed because of some flawed test.
He's about 6 months old now and praise God he is alive.
Perhaps they recognize the disdain society has placed on any human being that is not perfect and seek to share their love and home with those who are unwanted by societal standards. Just a hunch :-)
Well congrats to you. Enjoy the blessing.
God bless her! I would have done the same.
Palestrina, you said what I was just about to say. A long time ago, when I was a reporter, I was sent to do a story on a group of kids born with Down's Syndrome. I was just a young single guy, with not much concern about children one way or the other. It turned out to be one of the most moving experiences of my life. The open, innocent affection of these kids was overwhelming. It gave me a whole new insight into the value of human life. It was over 25 years ago, and I still think of it often. Their lives are precious, and their parents obviously felt so too.
My cousin has Down's Syndrome. Plus, I worked for the ARC, which serves people with developmental disabilities such as Down's Syndrome, for 5 years. I worked in a group home with a middle aged man with Down's Syndrome and a middle aged woman with Down's Syndrome. They both had jobs. They both had hobbies and interests. And friends. They were both interested in the opposite sex. And they both seemed to derive at least as much joy out of life as many "normal" folks I've met.
One of the most outspoken proponents against abortion, was the product of rape. She is a beautiful individual, smart, intelligent and pro-life!
My wife and I went through exactly the same, almost 10 years ago. Quite a few medical offices are STRONGLY biased in favor of abortion for indications of Downs.
We had the same error in test results too, and I think a DELIBERATE mistake as to the date of pregnancy, which gives a false positive on AFP test. The doctors told us we were wrong about the date of pregnancy - they insisted we were wrong. And we knew for a fact that we were not.
We told 'em to stuff it - the extra tests, the attitude, and the business. We fired the doctor. We hired a midwife - had the baby at the Catholic hospital.
Short of murder, rape is the most horrible crime there is, and I think all forcible rapists should get the death penalty (the Supreme Court decision that limits the use of the death penalty to murder is absurd). But an innocent child should not have to pay with his life for the sins of his father. The U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing "corruption of blood" (punishment for the children of the criminal) even on those convicted of treason. Society's response to a rape should be to execute the guilty rapist, not kill an innocent baby.
Here's a good article on the "tough cases" regarding abortion:
When my mother was 36 years old she became pregnant. The Doctor urged her to have an abortion because of her age.
My sister is now 30 and has three kids of her own.
Life is so precious, and love can make it through all obstacles. In my opinion anyway.
one of my best friends lost his kids and his house, along with(and to) his wife, after the last of his parents died and he was all there is left to take care of his younger sister... until one of them dies.