March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, and West Virginia has kicked off the celebration with a new life-saving protection for the unborn. In a race against the clock on the last day of the 2022 session, the state legislature passed SB 468, known as the Unborn Child with Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act. The popular bill passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 81-17 and the Senate by a vote of 27-5. By passing SB 468, which is slated to go into effect on July 1, the state of West Virginia is reminding the nation of the precious gift that those with Down syndrome are to the world.
On Monday, Chloe Kondrich joined Gov. Jim Justice (R) at the West Virginia state capitol to witness the signing of SB 468 into law. For weeks, Chloe had been meeting with members of the West Virginia state congress to advocate for SB 468. Chloe, an 18-year-old advocate for life who has Down syndrome, successfully lobbied for Chloe’s Law in Pennsylvania at the age of 11 to ensure that parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are made aware of the resources available to help their child thrive. There is extensive evidence that families of those with Down syndrome recognize the blessing that their loved one is; the bigger challenge is helping the rest of the world to affirm it.
Unfortunately, ignorance and fearmongering directed towards pregnant mothers lead to immense loss of life for babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. In the United States, an estimated 67 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Paradoxically, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), which claims to be “the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome,” includes the possibility of “termination” as one of its top three reasons why a mother should undergo prenatal testing to determine if her child has Down syndrome.
Unfortunately, despite the many advocates fighting to protect the lives and human dignity of those with Down syndrome, some persist in maintaining discriminatory attitudes. On March 3, World Birth Defects Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) included Down syndrome in its list of the top “most common severe birth defects.” The WHO faced immense backlash on social media from voices around the world passionately disputing the idea that their loved ones with Down syndrome were “defective.” Chloe Kondrich’s simple response, which was accompanied by a photo of her advocating for life at the West Virginia capitol, spoke volumes: “I am Chloe Emmanuel Kondrich, and I am NOT a ‘severe birth defect.’”
The West Virginia law is not only a commonsense measure to prevent discrimination against babies with Down syndrome, but it also protects any child whose mother seeks an abortion on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis of a disability. The law combats the ableist tendencies of the abortion industry, which capitalizes on parents’ fears and convinces them that they are not equipped to raise a child with a disability.
A prenatal diagnosis should never strip a child of their right to life. This year, the theme of World Down Syndrome Day is “inclusion.” According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, this looks like “full and effective participation and inclusion in society.” True advocates for those with Down syndrome are people like Chloe who are fighting to empower families with resources and education to achieve this goal of inclusion rather than dismissing an entire population as a “birth defect” that ought to be simply “terminated.”
On World Down Syndrome Day, let us reject the ableist killing of babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis. Let us celebrate the inherent value of all human life, beginning in the womb. As West Virginia takes a step forward in protecting its unborn citizens from discrimination, the rest of the nation ought to follow.
Kurt Kondrich is a pro-life advocate who after the birth of his beautiful daughter Chloe in 2003 has devoted his life to ending the prenatal genocide against babies with Down syndrome.
Joy Zavalick is Research Assistant for the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.