New Era, New Worry: New tests for Down syndrome could lead to more abortions and less support for families.
I must praise Newsweek, first of all, for the whole setup:
The title itself captures the fears -- not that the world will be plagued with those nasty DS kids, but that these kids will be put to death, and that the survivors and their families be left friendless. And the photo is remarkable: just a couple of kids being kids in the autumn leaves. The caption simply identifies them by name. Only the context of the article tells you that one of these kids must have DS. If you know the signs of Down syndrome, you can spot that it's Ben.
The article, by Mary Carmichael, starts by describing the cruelty of elitist, ableist doctors who tried to browbeat a woman, first into aborting her child, then into placing him for adoption:
Beth Allard was recovering from labor, waiting for a hospital photographer to capture her newborn son's first day in the world, when a pediatrician walked into her room and told Allard her life was ruined. Allard might have expected as much from a doctor, given what she'd already heard from others in the previous few months: little Ben, who had tested positive in utero for Down syndrome, would be mute and illiterate, they said; he would spend his life hanging off her, drooling. The pediatrician was harsher: "You should consider putting him up for adoption," she said. "You're going to end up divorced. Don't even bother having any other children. Didn't you have the option to terminate?" Finally, the pediatrician left, and Allard resumed her wait for the photographer. He never came.
Beth nearly capitulated to the fearmongering -- something that the article implies would have been a terrible loss of a wonderful child. How refreshing! Usually the tone of articles in the MSM about kids with any sort of special need is how burdensome they are.
Carmichael then goes on to note, "Life with Down syndrome can be very challenging for both parents and kids, and according to studies, 90 percent of women whose fetuses test positive choose to abort. Now, because of a technological advance, pro-life and disability advocates worry those numbers may rise even higher."
I like that Carmichael recognizes the number as high, rather than buying into the "we must eradicate Down syndrome" attitude of too many doctors, and lamenting that the number isn't 100%. And I like that Carmichael refers to us as "pro-life" advocates and link us -- quite as we have been linked for decades -- with disability rights. It is, after all, those with disabilities who are at greatest risk of being put to death. As long as I've been involved in pro-life work, defending the lives of folks with disabilities, both born and unborn, has been a big part of that, as I'm sure it was before I joined the fray.
If [less risky prenatal tests] become common, they could result in more diagnoses, more abortions, a dwindling Down population and a drop in support for families who carry to term—what Down activist Patricia Bauer has called "the elimination of an entire class of people." Even now, only 5,000 babies are born with the syndrome each year.
I love how this is couched.
Carmichael goes on to note, "As technology has advanced, doctors' education about Down syndrome has lagged behind." She paints a far different picture of life with Down syndrome than the one many doctors paint. Siblings are empathetic people, and the parents are less likely to divorce than couples who aren't parenting a child with Down syndrome. And Carmichael points out something disability rights activists and prolifers have been lamenting for years: "In a 2000 study published in Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, 23 percent of doctors admitted trying to influence mothers' decisions, usually encouraging them to abort."
So, there is finally some recognition in the MSM that the lives of kids with Down syndrome are of value. It's about time!