Down Syndrome, Abortion and Angry, Sad Moms
Wednesday, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day. And even while families with people of Down syndrome work to spread awareness of the genetic abnormality and celebrate their children, there are those who want to eliminate Down syndrome children altogether. But some moms say those who want to get rid of Down syndrome kids just don’t get it.
Eradicating Down Syndrome…Children
“My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society — that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” said Geneticist Kari Stefansson. Stefansson is the founder of deCODE Genetics, which studies Icelandic populations’ genes.
Stefansson admits that Down syndrome has nearly become eradicated because of “heavy handed genetic counseling.” Abortion rates for those with Down syndrome in Iceland are almost at 100 percent. Only 2-3 children are born with Down syndrome each year in Iceland. So they aren’t “eradicating the syndrome.” They are killing babies with the syndrome.
The U.S. appears to heading in a much better direction. Four states have passed legislation banning abortion of Down syndrome babies. Another state is considering such a bill now.
‘Not the Child I Wanted’
But pro-abortion folks aren’t too happy about it. Earlier this month a deputy editorial editor for The Washington Post railed against the legislation, saying that she would have had an abortion if her unborn child had been found to have Down syndrome.
Ruth Marcus said that, while she respected and admired people who chose life for their children with Down syndrome, she wouldn’t have chosen that path. “I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision.”
Sadly, she’s not too far off the mark in her statement. Of those who received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome in the U.S. in the years 1999-2011, 67 percent chose abortion.
A Throwaway Culture
“Not the child I wanted,” she says. Journalist Charles C. Camosy describes the problem as one of a “throwaway culture.” In his 2015 WaPo article, Camosy said:
You couldn’t ask for a more revealing practice of the throwaway culture Pope Francis so strongly decries. It doesn’t matter that people with Down syndrome are happier than those who are “normal;” our consumer culture’s tendency is to turn everything into a mere object or tool of the market, and when the object or tool is no longer useful, we simply discard it. These children don’t meet the quality-control standards of the consumer, and so the product simply gets thrown out as so much trash.
Those who do choose abortion are throwing away a tremendous gift. One woman who has a child with Down syndrome is Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference.
“I struggled to put into words how offensive [Marcus’s column] is,” McMorris Rodgers tweeted. “When our son, Cole, was diagnosed with Down syndrome, my husband and I were given a long list of challenges and complications from his doctors,” she added. “But when we looked at Cole, we still saw lots of potential. Today, Cole is in the fifth grade. He finds joy in learning. He is a great big brother. … He is in cub scouts and plays basketball. He lights up a room and people are drawn to him! He is living a life full of huge possibility.”
McMorris Rodgers also said that those who choose abortion for their unborn Down syndrome babies “don’t understand in that moment how that child is going to positively impact their lives.”
“My Daughter is Perfect”
Heather Gibbins, another mom of a Down syndrome baby, told The Stream that Marcus’ column both angered and saddened her. “There’s nothing wrong with a child with Down syndrome,” she said. “My daughter is perfect. It hurt because people don’t have any idea. … By the end of [Marcus’s story] I was crying because some people don’t know. They don’t know the joy that is coming out of this diagnosis for us as parents. She’s just like any typical child.”
Kellie Dicus Best, mom of a 24-year-old with Down syndrome, had a similar reaction to Marcus’s article. “It makes me angry, it makes me want to cry, it makes me sad for that person,” she told The Stream. “You do fall in love with your child. I don’t know of a parent that wishes that whoever their child is with Down syndrome is not exactly who they [are].”
When asked what she’d tell new parents of Down syndrome children, Gibbins said, “I would tell them to take their babies home and just love them. Treat them like they would any baby. They are in for a most incredible journey. A beautiful journey.”
Four years ago, CoorDown, Italy’s national organization for people with Down Syndrome, produced a video called “Dear Future Mom” for World Down Syndrome Day. In it, children with Down syndrome answer a new mom’s concerns about what kind of life her child will have. Watch: