Monday, February 18, 2008

Fight the bigotry!

The blogosphere is abuzz about the professor who told his class that every baby with Down syndrome should be aborted.

First of all, let's recognize this for the bigotry it is. Imagine if the screening wasn't for an extra 21st chromosome, but for a "gay gene", or for dark skin pigment.

So, it's appalling bigotry. Now what?

Fight the bigotry against kids with Down syndrome by supporting Band of Angels. They make beautiful calendars and greeting cards featuring kids with DS. They also have "Cenebrate Packages" that you can sponsor to help parents make the adjustment to a DS diagnosis. You can also buy Common Threads, a breathtaking coffee-table book featuring essays and pictures illustrating life with Down syndrome.

If there is a doll collecter on your gift list, consider one of the beautiful dolls by Downi Creations.

There are also some beautiful products available at Cafe Press:

Down syndrome isn't scary - it's just different.

We are all Different. We are all Beautiful.

Do not be afraid...

Gently Enhanced

My personal favorite: Love does not count chromosomes.

There is a war being waged on kids with Down syndrome. And even if you, personally, think that the world is better off without such "defective" people being permitted to wander about at large, what about the collateral damage -- the three genetically normal children who die for every "defective" Down syndrome baby that's weeded out? Is this an acceptable level of collateral damage? To kill three civilian bystanders for every one of the "enemy"?

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KathyR said...

As the parent of a young son with Down syndrome, I was shocked to learn that the abortion rate for babies who are diagnosed prenatally with Ds is 90%. I was very upset(understatement of the year;-) when we received a prenatal diagnosis of Ds for our child 9 yrs ago, but abortion was not an option for us. As I grew to know my baby, I was amazed and embarrassed to quite remember how upset I had with him is far different that I was afraid it would be. He is, quite simply,a treasure.
The vast majority of parents that i have spoken to say the same thing...they were scared, angry, depressed, etc, when they got their child's diagnosis, but within a short time, they could not believe how much they loved their child,or imagine life without him or her. Which leads to the 90% abortion rate; if the common reaction of parents is to change their minds completely regarding Ds after they actually see/live with their child, why aren't doctors connecting expectant parents who get a prenatal diagnosis with parents who already have a child w/Ds so that the expectant parents will know what life will be like? Why don't doctors give positive information about Ds instead of all of the 'gloom and doom' misinformation that many of them spout off? I have no clue, but it sure seems like that would be a reasonable course of action, doesn't it? If you go to your doctor, and you have a condition that he/she is not experienced in dealing with, he/she will send you to a specialist(that is, if he/she is a competent doctor and has your best interests at heart) but the vast majority of doctors are not doing that in the case of expectant parents who get prenatal diagnoses...instead of connecting families to 'experts', they take it upon themselves to tell those expectant parents that the best thing to do would be to terminate the pregnancy...based on outdated, inaccurate, and incomplete information. The Brownback-Kennedy Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act is an effort to require doctors to give accurate information and offer to connect expectant families with experienced families who have a child with the same diagnosis. Sad that we have to have a law for this, but apparently, we do. More information here:
Another thing to help raise awareness is this petition:
the plan is that we will print it off on March 21st, World Down Syndrome Awareness Day(3/21) and send it to members of Congress, ACOG and the National Ds groups. We also hope that people who sign it will send it to their local doctors, members of Congress, papers, etc to bring awareness to this issue. Any help is greatly appreciated. You do not have to be the parent of a child with Down syndrome to sign the petition.
thank you.
kathy ratkiewicz

Christina Dunigan said...

First, let me turn Kathy's URL's into links:

Christina Dunigan said...

Hi, Kathy,

I think part of the problem is that doctors view Down syndrome as a disease to be prevented, and this stops them from being able to see the child. Doctors "cure" things. And when that extra chromosome turns up, it isn't something they can go in and surgically remove. They can't "fix" the baby. So, having been trained to do something, to fix things, to "cure" people, they offer the only thing they can think of -- "cure" the mother of the "defect" by aborting the baby.

Though they wouldn't have this attitude if we didn't have such a bigoted society with such profound prejudices against people with developmental disabilities.

We worship academic intelligence and physical prowess, two areas where Down syndrome seems to "doom" the child to total failure.

What people don't realize -- and I didn't realize this until I was immersed in an institution for the developmentally disabled -- is that there are more kinds of "smart" than what an IQ test measures. It's humbling for a college graduate to be outfoxed by somebody with an IQ of 20! But it teaches you real quick that there's an enormous world of difference between "retarded" and "stupid".

Christina Dunigan said...

Kathy -- continued. I want to break it up to make it easier to read and to respond to.

One of the most profound discoveries of my life involved M, one of the men that lived at that institution. M is "retarded". I'd say his measured IQ is about 20. Perhaps lower. He's non-verbal. He can't dress himself, can't bathe himself. He needs help cleaning himself up after he uses the toilet. He has the "self-care skills" of a freshly toilet-trained toddler.

There was also something amiss with his legs. He was very knock-kneed, and had a strange, shambling gait that quickly wore out his shoes in the toes.

Due to poor care he'd originally received at the institution in his youth, he was missing quite a few teeth.

So there was M. At first, all I saw was a middle-aged man, short, deformed, snaggle-toothed, and mentally retarded.

But in that place where respect was hard to come by if you were a resident, M demanded respect from the staff. If you showed him respect, he'd be a joy to you. If you dissed him, he could make your life a living hell. Some of the staff hated him for that, because he made their jobs tricky. But all M wanted was respect. His motto, as far as I could see, was "Don't tread on me." Perfectly reasonable. And when I saw that, love or hate him, the staff quickly learned to treat M with respect, I started to admire him.

This man was locked away for life in a maddening place that would have driven me to despair, madness, perhaps suicide. But he was thriving.

Once he won my admiration, my love wasn't far behind.

And I can still remember the moment it struck me: There isn't a goddam thing wrong with M. He's a fine, magnificent example of a human being, deformed legs, missing teeth, mental retardation and all.

That moment rocked my world, and I am so much the richer for it. My horizons were expanded, as much as the European mind was expanded when they learned there was a land on the other side of the Atlantic. A whole new world of people I'd have once brushed off was opened up to me.

I started seeing treasures all over that institution. People I genuinely rejoiced in, respected, and loved. It's been about eight years since I left, but my home is still decorated with pictures of the people I knew there. Not the "normal" people -- the other staff -- though many of them were wonderful people as well. It was the residents, the warehoused people society saw as "defective, who were treasures. And they were hidden away in an institution, where few people could see them at all, and even fewer see them for who they were.

And it sickens me to see the idea "Oh, the baby will be retarded!" as reason to throw him away as if he has no value whatsoever.