Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Disappearance of Down Syndrome

Originally posted on Facebook, June 28, 2008.

If you can recognize the characteristic physical features associated with Down Syndrome (DS), try this experiment: Next time you're out in a crowd, take a look around and count how many folks with DS you can identify. How many? How old?

Chances are you wont see many, and the ones you see will be well into their 30s and 40s or beyond—an observation that would be consistent with documented demographic realities.

Why is this? What happened in the early '70s that so radically decreased the number of babies born with DS? Was there some kind of fantastic medical discovery back then that aided the treatment of this condition in the womb?

Guess again.

In a beautiful yet discomforting piece in the Wall Street Journal recently ("A Life Worth Living," 6/27/2008), Christine Rosen alludes to the real reason:
Between 80% and 90% of women who find out they are carrying a child with the chromosomal abnormality (which can be tested using amniocentesis) choose to abort. A Harvard medical student who surveyed 1,000 women who were pregnant with Down Syndrome babies reported that many were urged by their doctors to terminate their pregnancies; one woman's physician told her that her child would "never be able to read, write or count change." This at a time when new developments in medicine have nearly doubled the average life span of people who have the condition to 49 from 25 years.
So, it wasn't a medical advance that led to fewer babies born with DS, but rather the Supreme Court's decision in 1973 to make abortion legal in all 50 states. In other words, we're eliminating a disorder by eliminating the patient.

All abortions are abominable crimes, but killing preborn babies because they are viewed as "defective" is particularly revolting—especially when it becomes the norm. Again, Christine Rosen:

As a culture, we have made what Amy Laura Hall of Duke University Divinity School calls a "democratic calculus of worth" regarding Down Syndrome. And that calculus has resulted in a society hostile to people who refuse to make the culturally acceptable choice of ridding themselves of a disabled child before she is born.

Can we continue to call "civilized" a society that tolerates, protects, and even promotes this heinous practice? Or has our "teetering on the edge of collapse" finally shifted into a moral free fall?

Pray for an end to abortion. Work for its end. Protest accordingly. Vote accordingly.

And when you see a baby with DS say a prayer of thanks. That baby's very existence means that we haven't hit rock bottom just yet.