The Pro-Life Argument for Raising Down Syndrome Awareness

Down Syndrome
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If you were on Twitter or Facebook yesterday you might have seen it: a video of 50 moms, each with their Down syndrome child, signing and singing to Christina Perri’s song “A Thousand Years.” The video was released in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, a United Nations-recognized global campaign to raise awareness of those born with an extra 21st chromosome.

The video is a moving, joyful, beautiful, tear-jerking celebration of the full lives those with Down syndrome, and those around them live, and, whether it intends to be or not, a stirring argument for the pro-life cause. It’s impossible to see the joy of these 50 children without realizing that according to some research, two-thirds of these children would be aborted by American women if they’d known they had Down syndrome. In a recent editorial for The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus outlines the mental and physical difficulties Down syndrome children face and concludes, “I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company.”

Being in good company, though, hardly makes a eugenics-driven, value-based approach to life acceptable. Prior to World War II genetically preferring some life over others was in vogue, until Nazism revealed that trend for what it was: pure evil. It’s difficult to watch those 50 moms and kids singing and not realize that Down syndrome-targeted abortions are a form of genocide. Some states do see it this way, with North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana all banning abortion after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. While abortion is horrible in-and-of-itself, the national conversation regarding Down syndrome and abortion is in a category all its own.

In a response to Marcus’s editorial Micha Boyett, a mother of a Down syndrome child, says many parents like her want to see this conversation removed from the never-ending abortion debate. In her editorial, she encourages us to ask what sort of society eliminates certain lives deemed unfit. Using the LGBTQ community as a reference, Boyett says if science could predict homosexuality and parents began aborting LGBTQ children we would be rightly horrified. She concludes:

“We live in a culture that holds contempt for weakness, and our derision masquerades as progress… Human beings with Down syndrome are acknowledged as cute, or loved by their families, or capable of living a fulfilling life… But deeming a life valuable because a person is happy or cute isn’t merely shallow. It’s dangerous. It should disturb us deeply when anyone fails to acknowledge our full humanity or makes a claim to know who among us is worthy of life—and who isn’t.”

Boyett’s point leads the discussion past “look how much joy Down syndrome kids have” (something Marcus’s editorial acknowledges, then dismisses), and replaces it with “any society that bases life on how it makes us feel is doomed to destroy itself.” Fortunately, elevating the cause of “the least of these” is what the church does best, from the third century Christians who stayed in Carthage to care for plague victims when the city was evacuated, to Christian groups like International Justice Mission, which fights human trafficking.

Pictures like this one then become the perfect encapsulation for the Christian response to World Down Syndrome Day, both in how it represents the joy of human life in the child’s face and the message in the background that reads “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

This is church’s message: A truly strong, truly advanced society will never regret cherishing the lives of the powerless.

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Joshua Pease
Josh Pease is a writer & speaker living in Colorado with his wife and two kids. His e-book, The God Who Wasn't There , is available for purchase on Amazon.

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