Patrina Mosley is the Director of Life, Culture and Women's Advocacy at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Daily Caller on March 21, 2019.
For the last eight years, world calendars have set aside March 21 to acknowledge that those with disabilities matter and are valuable members of society. World Down Syndrome Day reminds us that disabled does not mean disposable. Disabled may just mean a less comfortable life. Discomfort does not prevent a person from living a full and rewarding life. Plus, this life is not all there is.
Down Syndrome (D.S.) is one of the most common chromosome abnormalities, resulting from an extra or partial chromosome in an individual’s DNA. The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention records that about one in 700 babies born in the United States has D.S., which comes out to about 6,000 babies each year.
However, most babies with D.S. in the U.S. are aborted. The exact percentage is hard to pin down because the U.S. does not keep a data collection of pre-birth genetic abnormalities and how often they terminated. Still, the best and most recent statistical analysis showed that abortion rates following a confirmed prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome range from 61 percent to 93 percent in the United States.
These numbers indicate the U.S. is well on the way to imitating the quiet atrocities of some European countries in eliminating persons with D.S. from the population. Prenatal screening tests were made available in Iceland in the early 2000s, and today close to 100 percent of Icelandic women who received a positive test for Down syndrome ended their pregnancy. Iceland and Denmark have prided themselves on eradicating people with D.S. from their populations.
Eradicating diseases is public health; eradicating people is eugenics. The eugenic belief that only “useful” people matter — or whomever the state considers not to be a burden on society — is a dangerous and serious one. People matter regardless of capability, race, or gender because they have inherent value given to them by God, not by the state or any other person. To assume that we have the authority to assign value to people and, if they are deemed unworthy, to take their life is the ultimate masquerade of human arrogance playing God.
Some predict that as prenatal screening becomes more widely available and utilized, then we could expect the number of babies with D.S. who are aborted to increase. With this in mind, World Down Syndrome Day gives us an opportunity to contemplate the real question at hand: “is it better to die than live with difficulties in life?” One mother whose child was recently diagnosed with D.S. gave an insightful perspective, stating “every child is going to have problems in life …and things they’re going to have to overcome.” The only difference is that you don’t know what the challenges will be ahead of time. Prenatal testing can only tell you what physiological difficulties may be ahead, not the unforeseen trials of life.
It is true that persons with D.S. are confronted with a range of intellectual and physical challenges. A good life does not look to exclude disability, discomfort, or personal sacrifice. In fact, it is in times of struggle when we are more receptive to seek divine strength.
People with D.S. are some of the most joyous and loving people you will ever meet on the planet. It’s incredible how their extra chromosome somehow gives them an extra dose of love. Just meet Julie Tennant who says, “Down Syndrome means that I have an extra chromosome that nobody in my family has. My grandfather calls it a “love chromosome.” He said that when people make fun of me, it’s because they are missing something, not me. God made me this way, and I know He loves me.”