The following is a Zenit.org analysis of the abortion of down syndrome children; there is increased interest in the topic since the news of Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy, and her taking to full term her down syndrome child, Trig.
Unlikely to Survive
Few Down Syndrome Babies Making It to Birth
By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, SEPT. 21, 2008, (Zenit.org).- One of the consequences of the nomination of Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican party's vice-presidential candidate is renewed attention to Down syndrome.
On April 18, Palin gave birth to Trig Paxon Van Palin, having been told by doctors the previous December that he suffered from Down syndrome, reported the Associated Press on May 3.
An article in the Washington Post on Sept. 10 by opinion columnist Michael Gerson noted that when tests reveal Down syndrome in an unborn child, around 90% are aborted.
The numbers of Down syndrome children being aborted could well rise if last year's recommendation by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is heeded, he added. The college urged universal, early testing for Down syndrome for all expectant mothers, not just those who are older and therefore have a higher chance of a child affected by the condition.
Gerson argued, however, that children born with Down syndrome "are generally not experienced by their parents as a curse but as a complex blessing." Many doctors and counselors, nevertheless, urge mothers to have an abortion instead of going ahead with a Down syndrome pregnancy, he noted.
This practice of ending "imperfect" lives, Gerson continued, cannot be separated from how we regard and treat all people who have disabilities. "And this feeds a social Darwinism in which the stronger are regarded as better, the dependent are viewed as less valuable, and the weak must occasionally be culled," he concluded.
In spite of the difficulties in raising a child with Down syndrome, a number of newspapers have published stories highlighting the positive experiences of parents with such children.
Raising a child with Down syndrome can reveal many profound truths about parents and their children, reported the Washington Post on Sept 14.
The article described the situation of Adrianne Pedlikin, a mother of three, including a 10-year-old son with Down syndrome. The article acknowledged the difficulties and trials of looking after a boy with Down syndrome, but it described how at the same time, both Adrianne and her husband Philip declared their love for their son and said his birth has changed their worldviews in a positive way.
The article also referred to the experiences of other families, who frequently run into opposition from educational institutions in seeking to have their children with Down syndrome allowed into schools. They also often find that other parents tend to shut them out and that their children don't receive invitations to play with other kids.
Another personal testimony on the positive experience of being a parent of a Down syndrome child was published June 2 in the U.K. newspaper, the Guardian. Annie Rey described how when she was growing up she was terrified by people with disabilities. Then in her early 40s she became pregnant and discovered her child had Down syndrome.
"During the pregnancy I lurched from optimism to despair: optimism that the child, who at 20 weeks we discovered to be a boy, wouldn't have Down's, and despair that he would," she wrote.
Her son Paddy is now 2 years old, and she has now accepted the idea of having a child with Down. She said she realizes that "he is not a diagnosis" but a child with many qualities.
"I truly believe that if my precious boy did not exist, our world, and probably the world at large, would be a poorer place," she concluded.
From Canada, the Shaw family recounted their experience of a Down syndrome child in an article published March 2 in the Ottawa Citizen. Michael and Lesley Shaw would have aborted if they had known their daughter, Sydney, had Down syndrome, they told the newspaper.
Now that Sydney is 9 years old, her father declared that they have changed their minds and now consider their daughter as "a wonderful, joyous child."
"She has enriched my life to a degree I didn't think was possible," said Michael Shaw. "She changed my whole focus on life, on what has value and what doesn't have value, and what we consider valuable."
Michael Shaw is also on the board of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, an advocacy group concerned about the coming of broader prenatal testing in Canada and what it will mean for Down syndrome children.
In February 2007, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada issued new guidelines recommending that every woman, regardless of age, be offered noninvasive prenatal genetic screening.
According to the Ottawa Citizen about 80%-90% of Canadian women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to have an abortion.
Read the rest here.