Daily Telegraph carries a story reporting the results of a study carried out by Joan Morris, professor of medical statistics, at Queen Mary’s Hospital.
Not so long ago there was an assumption that advanced medical screening and access to abortion could all but eliminate the birth of the Down’s baby, as though this genetic cleansing was a good thing. The assumption also being, who would want a Down’s child?
It is a fact that because women are waiting until their 30’s and 40’s to become pregnant that the number of pregnancies being diagnosed as Down’s is increasing.
Professor Morris is quoted in this morning’s article as saying:
"We are getting more pregnancies with Down's syndrome because women are having their babies older and because we are screening more accurately and screening more women, there are more terminations”.
Women who have been screened for Down’s will happily tell you that, when the screening takes place, the assumption is very much weighted towards the reason being ‘pre-abortion ’screen, as opposed to 'pre-counseling'.
Everyone must respect the feelings and wishes of any parent who may find themselves in the position of hearing a Down’s diagnosis. However, we must also question the process and why a positive attitude to the diagnosis does not take equal precedence to a negative approach? Why is the assumption that a parent will automatically abort not tempered with the fact that if a parent encounters the diagnosis in a positive way, with compassionate non judgmental information about rearing a Down’s child, they may be able to move their thought process from “we can’t do this” to “lets think, can we?”
Does the new life, which by the time the diagnosis is made may be very well developed, not deserve at least this?
Frank Buckley, Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Education International said: "People with Down’s syndrome are living longer and achieving more than ever before and it is reassuring to know that they will be continuing to make valued contributions to our communities for years to come.
"These figures should be a wake-up call to policy-makers to focus more effort on improving education, healthcare and adult support for the rapidly growing population of citizens who have Down syndrome."
Peter Elliott, Chairman of The Down’s Syndrome Research Foundation, who has a 24-year-old son David with Down’s Syndrome, said: "Why are the abortions at such a high rate unless they have been given the impression the situation was terrible and it warranted an abortion?"
The question I ask myself when considering this is based on my ability to love, could I love a Down’s child? Yes, I could and I know three sets of parents who do. I am going to change her name, in case her parents are reading this, however Anita is loved by many in the small Cotswold town in which she lives.
She has very strong likes and dislikes in terms of which music and TV programs she likes and she is very inquisitive and funny. Whilst I am writing this I realise how long it is since I had one of her totally loving cuddles.
I know of another Down’s couple who fell in love and now live together.
It is estimated that there are approximately 60,000 people with Down's syndrome currently living in the UK. Many of them happily and heartily and contributing to the community in which they live.
Today’s report in the Telegraph makes depressing reading. Many babies aborted with Downs are aborted late into the pregnancy. They are not children of a lesser God; they just have a different contribution to make than. If we really are striving to live in an equal society, at the very least, do they not have a right for their life to be considered?