Down Syndrome and Abortion

by Elizabeth Tanguay

The latest fad these days in obstetrics is the Integrated Prenatal Screening test (IPS). Doctors may offer this screening, a combination of blood tests and nuchal translucency ultrasound, for neural tube defects and chromosomal anomalies to pregnant women over the age of 35. These tests can detect the probability of the fetus having spina bifida or Down syndrome. If the chance is greater than 1/200, the screen is considered positive and the parents are then offered further testing, such as chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, which carry a small risk to the fetus. After this, if the fetus is deemed to have Down syndrome, or trisomy 18 or trisomy 13, the obstetrician will offer the parents the option to terminate the pregnancy. There is no real prenatal cure or treatment for Down syndrome, or trisomy 18 or trisomy 13 or spina bifida, except perhaps later in the pregnancy and in utero, which wouldn’t cure the problem, but would perhaps treat some of the heart, nerve and other organ defects. The reason obstetricians and family doctors offer this treatment so early is to give the parents a chance to abort.

Isn’t it strange, that in this post-Nazi, post-World War II age, in times when we have equal opportunity employers, disability benefits, special parking places for people with a disability, the Special Olympics and the Paralympics, that 90% of children with Down syndrome are aborted? Our modern, tolerant society that says that people with a disability are gifts to society would rather kill them than allow them to be born. This is a classic example of modern eugenics at work, as well as the consumer society we live in. We need to understand that children are not products to be consumed, items to purchase, the latest “thing” you must have: they are gifts, loaned to us for a short time to bring joy, laughter, simplicity, and wonder to the world.

But why would we want to rid the world of children with Down syndrome? The number of people who know a person with Down syndrome is decreasing, but those of us who know them can attest to their gentleness, sensitivity, friendliness, and their genuine love for other people. Parents of these children say that the whole family learns so much more from this child with a disability than they could ever imagine. A lesson we all need to learn is that those with genetic differences have just as much of a right to experience life, love and happiness as anyone else.

Check out these excellent articles written by Canadian parents of children who have Down Syndrome:
There’s no such thing as the perfect child
Our daughter’s Down syndrome has taken us on a beautiful journey
Adoption of children with Down syndrome is also increasingly popular: A demand for Down’s
Another great, touching article by the father of a man who has Down Syndrome.

13 thoughts on “Down Syndrome and Abortion

  1. Robin

    After seeing one of your emotionally exploitive posters in the women’s washroom on campus I feel that I have to respond to your ad.

    First of all, your argument is illogical. The existence of abortion as an option to women is not the problem. The issue is the lack of awareness and rampant ignorance surrounding children born with down’s syndrome. I would support this ad if it were advocating for more education addressing people with disabilities. Instead it used people with disabilities to further your anti abortion agenda.

    Also, the treatments you suggest that could improve the life of the unborn fetus put the mother at high risk. Any operation during pregnancy is highly dangerous to both mother and fetus.

    As well, the cost and hardship that these families would face raising a child with disabilities (although obviously not without it’s benefits) would be too much for many families to bear.

    In any case, your issue shouldn’t be with the existence of abortion it should be with the general populations ignorance about disabilities such as down syndrome. Are you going to be donating to any disabilities advocacy groups? Are you extending a helping hand to those you claim to care so much about? Or are you just exploiting them so that you can further your crusade against a woman’s LEGAL RIGHT to choose?

  2. uOttawa Students For Life Post author

    Hi Robin,

    90% of preborn children with Down syndrome are aborted. While much can be done to reduce this figure through education and the elimination of stigma, the fact remains that Canada’s policy of abortion-on-demand throughout all 9 months of pregnancy allows for the specific elimination of preborn children with Down syndrome on a mass scale. That is highly concerning, and should make us question whether abortion-on-demand is appropriate.

    There is a range of support available to families of children with disabilities (including Down syndrome). Many of our members are involved in organizations that specifically assist people with intellectual and physical disabilities, including Best Buddies Ottawa and the Down Syndrome Coalition for Life, and some have children with special needs in their family. We are passionate about affirming the rights of people with disabilities. In the end, though, pro-life people like ourselves simply don’t accept the idea that because it might be difficult to raise a child, that child should not be allowed to live. We believe such thinking is characteristic of a culture that has failed to live up to its obligations to mothers, children and families. As pro-lifers, we strive to help shift the culture to one that values and affirms all members of the human family.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. MP

    I am just curious if anyone who contributed to this article has ever lived with someone with a physical or mental disability? It would be interesting to know what bias may be present by the author of this article.

    1. Elizabeth Tanguay

      I have had extensive experience working and living with people who have various mental and physical disabilities. These range from the hard of hearing, Down’s syndrome, dyslexia, Asperger’s, ADHD, delayed developmental growth, and others. And I was also curious as to what exactly you mean by “bias”. Because regardless of the experience I have had or others have had, people with disabilities have just as much the right to life as anyone else.

  4. Pingback: Who Wouldn’t Want This Precious Little Boy? « uOttawa Students For Life

  5. Pingback: Non-invasive Prenatal Screen Draws Closer As Scientists Analyze Blood From Mother | Singularity Hub

  6. leyla

    Why wouldn’t we want down babies aborted? Harsh ? Yes, but that’s life. We live in an over populated world as it is, why would we want to bring life into this world that will never contribute anything and merely exist as a one more useless strain on our planets resources.Not to mention the parents who are signing on for a LIFETIME of parenting. Down syndrome children may be cute and sweet (yes I understand), but they are also perpetual children and enormous amount of work ….. lets save our energy and not punish mothers for making a perfectly rational decision.

    1. uOttawa Students For Life Post author

      Hi Leyla,

      Thanks for stopping by our blog. We can agree that that is harsh – can you imagine saying it to this little girl and boy and his adoptive parents?

      Check out the Population Research Institute for information on how fears of overpopulation are vastly overblown. It would also seem logical that individuals with Down syndrome consume fewer resources than average since they typically live with their families, don’t have their own vehicles, etc.

      Keep in mind that the argument that someone is a waste of resources motivates sex-selective abortions. Some parents abort their daughters because they consider raising them to be a waste of time and effort compared to a son.

      The biological parents of a baby with Down syndrome don’t actually have to sign onto a lifetime of parenting – check out the link in the post about families wanting to adopt babies with Down syndrome.

      Lastly, but certainly not least, children and adults with special needs do contribute to society in their own important way. They teach so-called normal people a great deal about trust, service, selflessness, and love; in short, to be decent, caring human beings. Life can be harsh, but we don’t have to be.

  7. Mama Gallina

    I am pregnant and my doctor did not offered the ips test she said I had to do it. Its just a waste of time because I wont end my pregnancy no matter what. I am a Catholic. But definetly these tests make you so worry about the possibility of having a baby with down syndrome that if I were not a Catholic I would problably be tricked. My friend was told that she had a high chance of having a baby with down syndrome and she ended up having a healthy baby.

  8. renate lindeman

    I am the mother of two children with Down syndrome. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me wonder and they make me happy. (Pretty much the effect they have on others too.). Though their development is good, I realize they will probably never get a job that allows them to pay for a large 4,000 square foot home with multiple SUV’s in the driveway and yearly holidays abroad. In a nutshell their carbon footprint is -and will remain- very small. They are clever but also incredibly honest and straight forward and risks of them ever bullying, cheating, stealing or ending up as criminals are very slim. Yes, they require more time and effort and as a result I am now spending a little less time and money on myself or shopping for useless stuff and a little more on healthy food and quality time for the family.
    So Leyla; I guess I can conclude that more Down people would actually be good for our planets’ resources, sustainablity and the slow living concept. Heard of that yet?


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