A group of concerned parents has launched a crusade for life. They want women and couples considering abortion when faced with a diagnosis of probable Down syndrome to listen to them as they talk of their own children and the joy these children have brought into their lives.
The urgency of their mission was vastly increased in recent months as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG] issued a new recommendation that all pregnant women be tested for Down syndrome. Previously, only women age 35 and older were advised to have the test performed during pregnancy.
The result? Ponder this fact as reported in the May 9, 2007 edition of The New York Times:
About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.
That chilling statistic is found in the article, “Prenatal Test Puts Down Syndrome in Hard Focus,” by reporter Amy Harmon. The reporter puts a human face on one of the most telling moral crises of our times.
From the article:
Sarah Itoh, a self-described “almost-eleven-and-a-half,” betrayed no trace of nervousness as she told a roomful of genetic counselors and obstetricians about herself one recent afternoon.
She likes to read, she said. Math used to be hard, but it is getting easier. She plays clarinet in her school band. She is a junior girl scout and an aunt, and she likes to organize, so her room is very clean. Last year, she won three medals in the Special Olympics.
“I am so lucky I get to do so many things,” she concluded. “I just want you to know, even though I have Down syndrome, it is O.K.”
Sarah’s appearance at Henry Ford Hospital here is part of an unusual campaign being undertaken by parents of children with Down syndrome who worry about their future in the face of broader prenatal testing that could sharply reduce the number of those born with the genetic condition.
Convinced that more couples would choose to continue their pregnancies if they better appreciated what it meant to raise a child with Down syndrome, a growing group of parents is seeking to insert their own positive perspectives into a decision often dominated by daunting medical statistics and doctors who feel obligated to describe the difficulties of life with a disabled child.
They are pressing obstetricians to send them couples who have been given a prenatal diagnosis and inviting prospective parents into their homes to meet their children. In Massachusetts, for example, volunteers in a “first call” network linking veteran parents to new ones are now offering support to couples deciding whether to continue a pregnancy.
The parent evangelists are driven by a deep-seated fear for their children’s well-being in a world where there are fewer people like them. But as prenatal tests become available for a range of other perceived genetic imperfections, they may also be heralding a broader cultural skirmish over where to draw the line between preventing disability and accepting human diversity.
“We want people who make this decision to know our kids,” said Lucy Talbot, the president of a support group here who prevailed on the hospital to give Sarah and two teenage friends an audience. “We want them to talk to us.”
“We want them to talk to us.” That poignant statement from a concerned and loving parent is a cry from the heart. Those words also point to the collision of worldviews that this issue represents.
One the one side are groups such as the ACOG, who argue that women and couples should have a “choice” when faced with this diagnosis. Of course, given that the choice made by 90 percent of patients is to abort, all concerned with the process must know that abortion is the most likely outcome. Some doctors and medical ethicists go so far as to argue that knowingly bringing a baby with Down syndrome is itself immoral.
On the other side are those who, like these parents, know that every single human life deserves dignity and respect. They shudder at the moral horror of a search-and-destroy mission against the disabled in the womb. They want others to see the joy their Down syndrome children have brought into their lives. Just talk to us, they say.
Christians must be on the front lines of this crusade to defend those with Down syndrome, both in the world and in the womb. We must see what others might miss — the glory of God in the faces of those with Down syndrome. They have much to teach us, and we have much to learn.
Gladden your heart by listening to my friends Gary and Grant Gupton [see photo]. Listen as Gary introduces his son Grant, a boy with Down syndrome, as Grant leads the congregation of Louisville’s Highview Baptist Church in prayer on April 29, 2007. [Listen here]
I am so thankful for the opportunity of knowing Grant and seeing the love of the Gupton family.