Down syndrome abortion rates point to discrimination

By Greta Gessert | Contributor

The rates of abortion for children with Down syndrome are much higher than those for children without Down syndrome. This indicates that parents are aborting their children based on a genetic condition, which is discrimination. So why is this form of discrimination — a form so drastic that it involves preventing the birth of an entire group of people — not condemned?

According to a study on Down syndrome termination rates, 67% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome in the United States are aborted. Comparatively, in Iceland, the rate is nearly 100%, according to CBS News.

If someone has Down syndrome, they have an extra chromosome. According to the National Down Syndrome Society website, “approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.” This condition can cause delayed development and learning disabilities, as well as increasing the chance of a heart defect. Every child with this syndrome is different, and there is no predicting how severe their delayed development and learning disabilities will be.

It is one thing to abort a child because the pregnancy was unwanted. However, it is quite another thing to abort a child because of that particular child’s qualities. People with Down syndrome are people first, and they live fulfilling, meaningful, productive lives, just like people without Down syndrome.

Many times, people argue that raising a child with Down syndrome involves more expenses than children without it. However, all children are expensive, and you cannot put a price on any child, especially before birth.

If we could predict whether or not a baby would have cancer later in their childhood, would you tell parents to abort the baby because of the medical bills this might involve? Or would you see this baby as more than a price tag, because they are a human being?

Another argument for the abortion of babies with Down syndrome is that it takes a special kind of parent to have the fortitude to raise a child with this condition. I will not argue that raising a child with this condition would be the same as raising a child without it, but how does a parent know they have what it takes to be a parent at all before it happens? Parenting any child has its challenges, and just because a child has Down syndrome does not guarantee a bumpier parenting experience.

And if a parent really feels incapable of raising a baby with Down syndrome, there are adoption networks in place specifically to find families for babies with this condition, like the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN). There are families willing to adopt, love and care for babies with this syndrome, so instead of discriminating against a child by preventing their birth, parents who don’t feel fit to raise the child should put them up for adoption.

We cannot let an entire group of people — of valuable people just like the rest of us — disappear because of extreme discrimination. According to CNN, states like North Dakota and Utah have laws in place to help prevent abortion when the sole cause is Down syndrome. We need to fight for more laws like these.

We need to fight for national laws that don’t allow testing for genetic anomalies with the intent to abort if the baby is found to have a genetic anomaly. If parents are considering abortion, I believe that whether or not their child has Down syndrome should not play a factor. And if parents aren’t considering abortion, this condition should not be the factor that makes them change their mind. Discrimination should not play a role in the decision, and we should protect the diversity of our country.

Greta is a freshman University Scholars major from Lincoln, Neb.