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Monday, 24 November 2008

Downs Syndrome - not a reason for extermination

There is an interesting Press Association article today about the recent news that more babies are being born with Downs Syndrome. In 2006, 749 babies who were born had Downs Syndrome. It is certainly good news that more babies with Downs Syndrome are being allowed to live. However, there is some obfuscation here.

The Government's National Statistics website reports that there were 669,801 live births in 2006. They say that one in a thousand babies born have Downs Syndrome. This is a misleading statistic in that a large percentage of babies conceived with Downs Syndrome are aborted before birth. (In 2006 there were over 200,000 abortions in the UK according to the Government's statistics.) What we need to know is how many babies are conceived with Downs Syndrome and how many are actually allowed to live despite the pressure of prenatal tests and the ready availability of the "termination of pregnancy" (i.e. the killing of the Downs Syndrome baby.)

The AP report puts it clearly enough:
"A blood test or ultrasound scan is used to tell if a pregnant woman is at risk of having a child with Down's. This can be followed by more invasive tests which take samples of fluid from the womb or placental tissue to show definitively if a child has the syndrome. At either stage a decision may be taken whether or not to continue with the pregnancy."
"Continue with the pregnancy... or ... What?"

Further in the article, we read:
"The Down's Syndrome Association, in conjunction with the BBC, conducted a survey and the findings show that while religious or pro-life beliefs counted in around a third of cases, many parents felt that life and society had improved for people affected by Down's. Others said their decision was influenced by the fact that they knew people with Down's or other disabilities."
Now wait a minute! Religious and pro-life beliefs do in fact encourage society to improve life for the disabled, including those with Downs Syndrome. This is not a case of "either-or".

Bernadette in the combox has mentioned a radio interview in which a woman expressed incredulity that women could continue with a pregnancy where a Downs Syndrome child was involved since prenatal testing is now so good - i.e. we can get rid of them if we want.

Lourdes is the place where I see more Downs Syndrome children than anywhere else. The pro-life attitude of Catholics has placed them at the forefront of caring for the disabled, whether born or not.

The bottom line is: we do not have any right to exterminate Downs Syndrome children.

See also:
Jerome Lejeune
Down's syndrome and the dark forces
Down's syndrome - declaration of interest
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