When Being Pro-Life Isn’t Enough to Stop Abortion


The challenge in preventing abortion of Down syndrome fetuses is not convincing mothers that their child is a human being with a right to life, but of assuring expectant mothers there will be support for their children after they are born.*

Even if abortion were banned, that would not stop the abortion of fetuses that test positive for Down syndrome. In Ireland and Uruguay, where abortion is outlawed, half of all pregnancies diagnosed as positive for Down syndrome are still terminated. Though abortion is banned, transportation is not, and so Dublin mothers simply cross the Irish Sea to England; those in Uruguay can travel to neighboring countries where they can abort.

The challenge is not convincing mothers that their child prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome is in fact a child, having moral status, and therefore having the same right to life as any other human being. Consider why these mothers say they aborted: the burden on their other children; the burden on the child itself; fear that they could not care for the child; and fear that society would not support their child. One study found that “the lack of access to care was often given priority over strongly held ethical positions, such as those on abortion.”

Therefore, while pro-life organizations advocate for social change in recognizing that fetuses also have a right to life, a different social change is needed to address expectant mothers’ concerns who are considering aborting their unborn children with Down syndrome. As the national advocacy organizations, NDSS and NDSC should be at the forefront in challenging public policy to effect this change. Instead of investing $16,000 of scarce public healthcare dollars to pay for aborting children with Down syndrome, why not invest those funds in early intervention therapies to enable them to be more self-sufficient? Instead of California investing millions since the 1980s in prenatal testing for Down syndrome, why was that money not used to provide better support resources for individuals with Down syndrome? And, instead of the federal government investing over $15 million in the development of new prenatal tests for Down syndrome and now requiring prenatal testing at no cost through the recent HHS regulations on preventive care services, why is there not a corresponding investment to fully fund the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act to provide accurate information and support services to expectant parents?

Rafie and Winsor are quite right to call on NDSS and NDSC to take a public stand condemning selective abortion for Down syndrome. Doing so, however, is an anti-discrimination position, not an exclusively pro-life position. Rafie and Winsor’s larger argument, however, criticizing NDSS and NDSC for not being overtly pro-life or advocating the cause of the unborn ignores the actual difficult experience of expectant mothers. Rather than force these mothers simply to travel to abort their children, social change is needed so that these mothers can be confident that they will deliver their children into a society that welcomes them with the support that they need. Leadership is needed to effect change in the medical community to provide balancing information, and in society to support these families. Concerned parents and advocates look to the national advocacy organizations to effect this change in society’s view and support of those with Down syndrome.

It turns out that even in Ireland, 50% of Down’s Syndrome children are aborted.

What the doctors fail to share with expectant mothers is the large percentage of false positives in this test. I was told at one time that somewhere in the range of 80% are false positives (please - if anyone has a link to better data I’d appreciate it).

My mother was told I’d be a downs baby. I was not.


Ya know…

I’ve never seen such selfless love than from a kid with Down’s syndrome.

No better huggers, no better friends. Maybe not the best or most broad-reaching conversationalists, no, but dang it, they know how to love.

If it meant any future children I have wouldn’t turn into selfish little brats as the regrettable end-product despite parenting otherwise, I’ll take a kid with Down’s any day.

This is completely true. I would too.

I’ve heard this from many parents who have a child with downs.

… Come to think of it. I’ve never heard one complain or want it any other way…

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