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A Real Happily-Ever-After for Babies With Down SyndromeMarco Raaphorst / Flickr

A Real Happily-Ever-After for Babies With Down Syndrome


Jul 17 2013
Abortion, adoption, and yet again, ignorance over special needs.

Last week, the news came out about a pregnant woman in Maryland who discovered through prenatal testing that her fetus had Down syndrome. She planned to abort—the same choice made by at least 3 in 4 women who receive this diagnosis—until a local priest intervened, offering to find a family to adopt her child.

The woman was already 23 weeks pregnant, so she only had a few days to procure an abortion legally and reportedly gave the priest 24 hours to find a family. 900 offers came in. The church has narrowed the potential parents down to three couples, and the woman has decided to carry her baby to term.

Days ago, with this story buzzing around the blogosphere, I met a mother and her new baby, who has Down syndrome. We had a lovely time. Her son reminded me of my daughter Penny as a baby—full of smiles, attentive to his mother's face, swatting at toys, and hardly making a peep other than happy noises.

But the best part of our time together was the final few minutes when Penny, who also has Down syndrome, came home from summer school. She got off the bus, walked over to our guest, and stuck out her hand. "I'm Penny. It's nice to meet you." Penny proceeded to chatter about her day, talking about playing with a classmate, doing math (her favorite), and our plans to visit a friend the next day. When the mom and child needed to leave, Penny extended her arms for a hug, and then she asked, "Can I give your baby a kiss too?"

That night, Penny and I were telling my son William about our visitors. "You know how we were kind of scared and sad after we learned that Penny had Down syndrome?" I asked. "Well, I think maybe this mom felt a little bit scared and sad that her baby had Down syndrome, so maybe it helped her feel more happy to meet Penny and see that having Down syndrome isn't scary or sad for us."

William had squinted at me throughout my comments, the way he does when he doesn't quite understand what I'm saying. "But Mom," he said, "Down syndrome is good. Penny's very flexible." Penny promptly pulled her foot to her head to demonstrate. (Increased flexibility, at least as a child, is one of the perks of the low muscle tone that accompanies Down syndrome.) "Well," I said, "Down syndrome is good and bad, just like there are good and bad things about the bodies of people who don't have Down syndrome." William shrugged.

It's no surprise that news outlets picked up on the story I mentioned earlier with all its feel-good elements. But I wasn't expecting Jezebel's take on it: Church Saves Fetus with Downs, Everyone Lives Happily Ever After. It tells the story and concludes:

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A Real Happily-Ever-After for Babies With Down Syndrome