On World Down Syndrome Day today, the United Nations will, for the first time, officially recognize those with Down syndrome. I'd say it's about time.
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.
An amniocentesis used to be widely performed on older women who are at greater risk of carrying a child with Down syndrome, but it carried a small chance of miscarriage, so some refused the procedure. Now a simple blood test can tell a woman whether or not her baby has one extra chromosome and thus differentiates a "perfect" child from a child with a life-altering disability.
A 2011 piece in the New York Post declared "The End of Down's Syndrome," noting that 92 percent of women who receive this diagnosis choose abortion. (This was before the quick and less invasive blood test.) And just two weeks ago, a couple from Oregon received a $2.9 million settlement because their doctor failed to diagnose Down syndrome during pregnancy. The parents, through their lawyer, told the media that while they loved their little girl, they would have terminated the pregnancy had they known her diagnosis.
"What you end up having is a world without people with Down syndrome," Paul Root Wolpe, director of the center for ethics at Emory University, told the Post. "And the question becomes is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
We must not be content to live in a world where abortion weeds out Down syndrome and other kinds of disabilities. Those with Down syndrome have challenges, sometimes significant, but they bring abounding joy and expressive ...1
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