Monica Rafie and Tracy Winsor

How can we stop more Down syndrome babies from being aborted?

Monica Rafie and Tracy Winsor
By Monica Rafie and Tracy Winsor

December 16, 2011 (HLIAmerica.org) - As word spread of a new non-invasive, highly accurate prenatal test for Down syndrome, MaterniT21, the headlines could hardly have been more sensationalistic: The End of Down Syndrome! Will We Cull Those with Down Syndrome? Are Kids with Down Syndrome on the Road to Extinction?

This mainstream response seems to suggest a terrible acknowledgment of what happens to babies diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome. We have been “ending Down syndrome” for years, targeting atypical unborn children as we journey down a road that ensures a decreasing Down syndrome birth rate.

Just last week, a Time magazine article reported statistics pulled from a 2009 edition of the Archives of Disease in Childhood. As a result of more sophisticated prenatal screening, and with nine out of ten babies aborted following the prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, the birth rate for these children has been dropping for decades, decreasing by 15% between 1989 and 2005. This is particularly shocking as the impact of increasing maternal age during the same period should have resulted in a 24% increase in the Down syndrome birth rate.

What makes MaterniT21 (and all the new non-invasive prenatal tests based upon maternal plasma DNA) different and foreseeably catastrophic is that it will draw in a larger percentage of pregnant women. Those who reject invasive testing because of associated risks are likely to consent to a non-invasive test.  Advocates for those with Down syndrome have braced for just that reality, predicting that the Down syndrome birth rate (roughly 1 in 700 now) will drop sharply once non-invasive tests such as MaterniT21 are more widely available.

Join a Facebook page to end abortion here

With an abortion rate that has consistently been around 90%, shouldn’t we also be asking ourselves why our best efforts at advocacy for those prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome have failed? And the related, and more important question, how can we improve our advocacy efforts?

Persons with Down syndrome and their families are blessed to have strong communities of support, both locally, and nationally, through such organizations as the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC), the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and their local affiliates. These organizations have worked very hard for their constituents to gain access to education, employment, and healthcare opportunities as well as representation among those granted federal funds for medical research. They are to be commended for successful advocacy in these areas.

Over the years, NDSC and NDSS have offered multi-pronged, intelligent, and inspired efforts surrounding the issue of prenatal diagnosis. Both organizations have worked to improve the public profile of persons with Down syndrome using traditional and social media. They have addressed the discriminatory practice of targeted prenatal testing, produced positive, accurate, and updated information for parents experiencing a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, disseminated materials aimed at improving the sensitivity and response of doctors, genetic counselors and other medical professionals. They have even organized local in-person outreach initiatives to offer peer support to parents at the time of diagnosis. None of these efforts, however, have been successful in bringing society at large to a fundamental shift, or tipping point, whereby babies diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome are more likely to be carried to term and welcomed at birth by their parents.

The primary threat to the lives of persons with Down syndrome is no longer prenatal testing and diagnosis; nor is it ignorance, outdated information, lack of peer and professional support, nor even insensitive communication at the time of diagnosis. The primary threat to the lives of persons with Down syndrome is abortion. Yet, the major Down syndrome organizations are often unwilling to face that issue head on.

In 2008, NDSS and NDSC met with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Medical Genetics, and National Society of Genetic Counselors, and in 2009 released a jointly-written document titled, “Toward Concurrence: Understanding Prenatal Screening and Diagnosis of Down Syndrome from the Health Professional and Advocacy Community Perspectives“. The document addresses a handful of “misconceptions” about the organizations and their practices. The collaborative statement acquitted medical professionals of any “eugenic” motives surrounding the use of prenatal screening and testing, and affirmed that genetic counselors do not engage in directive counseling. Of all the possible misconceptions to present, the single one brought forth by NDSC and NDSS is to dismiss any idea that they are “pro-life” organizations.

Dr. Brian Skotko, a Harvard educated Pediatric MD, Certified Geneticist, and specialist in Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Boston, Board Member of NDSS and NDSC, author of numerous articles and oft-cited research about families of persons with Down syndrome,  most recently wrote about the expected effect of non-invasive prenatal diagnosis in a USA Today column. With a statement that perfectly echoes the positions of the national Down syndrome organizations, Skotko clearly indicates that Down syndrome advocacy ends where expectant parents’ decision-making begins: “I care deeply that patients receive accurate, up-to-date, balanced information so they can make informed decisions. Yet, as a physician, I am not in the business of telling expectant couples what pregnancy decisions they should be making when their fetus has Down syndrome. That is their decision.”

Skotko continues, “But the decision no longer needs to be made in a vacuum, nor should it be made with lingering misperceptions that are still whispered in our society.” With an abortion rate close to 25% for all babies nationwide, and in some areas, as high as 46%, perhaps it is worth considering that it may not be lingering misconceptions that dispose parents toward a decision to abort after diagnosis. Perhaps instead, the abortion rate for Down syndrome is the natural consequence of a diseased culture, influenced by 40 years of abortion on demand. Perhaps most abort simply because they can.

There is a dawning sense that the problem is much more complex than lingering misconceptions. Advocate, attorney, and father, Mark Leach, in The Prenatal Testing Sham, argues that Down syndrome advocacy focused on informing expectant parents with accurate and up-to-date resources about raising a child with Down syndrome is at this point the only card left to play: “Absent some fundamental societal change, these offsetting resources are really the only chance we have to turn the tide of decisions following a prenatal diagnosis.” Leach may be correct in his argument, but there is little evidence to support the hope that these resources will to any significant degree affect the numbers of parents who would otherwise abort.

Renate Lindeman, President of the Nova Scotia Down Syndrome Society, and mother of two children with Down syndrome, in anticipation of the imminent release of non-invasive prenatal tests, writes in the Canadian Medical Association Journal article, “Take Down Syndrome Out of the Abortion Debate”: “The best way to create a society that embraces (genetic and other) differences is to educate and engage the public and to support individual choices, whatever they are.” There has been no shortage of support for individual choices for 40 years. Why then are we still discussing “the best way to create a society that embraces difference”?

If the future plays out as has the past, advocacy for the child with Down syndrome in the womb will, in fact, be the only card left to play. What’s missing in the otherwise comprehensive approach of the NDSC and the NDSS is the simple and confident assertion that abortion is not an appropriate parental response to the prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. If the strongest, best advocacy refrains from articulating that even a fully-informed decision to abort a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome is a poor one, then who will make that argument?

If it is our goal to discover the best way to create a society that embraces (genetic and other) differences, can we even begin such an endeavor when we accept the idea that the unborn baby is so other, so different from us that they are not worthy of protection? Authentic and effective Down syndrome advocacy must begin by embracing and advocating specifically for the baby with Down syndrome in the womb. Until the Down syndrome advocacy organizations recognize this truth, the recurring headlines will continue to read, “The End of Down Syndrome!”

A blueprint for better disability advocacy can be discovered in the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities. Its vision is rooted in justice and is hopeful that change can be acheived,  with no hint of resignation to the failure of individuals or the challenge of “contemporary circumstances”:

We look to the future with what we feel is a realistic optimism. The Church has a tradition of ministry to people with disabilities, and this tradition will fuel the stronger, more broadly based efforts called for by contemporary circumstances. We also have faith that our quest for justice, increasingly enlisted on the side of individuals with disabilities, will work powerfully in their behalf. No one would deny that every man, woman and child has the right to develop his or her potential to the fullest. With God’s help and our own determination, the day will come when that right is realized in the lives of all people with disabilities.

Monica Rafie and Tracy Winsor are founding partners in the work of Be Not Afraid Ministry, an outreach to parents grappling with prenatal diagnosis. Monica and Tracy are Contributing Writers for HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. Their recent articles may be found at HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum. This article first appeared at HLIAmerica.org

Truth. Delivered daily.

Get FREE pro-life, pro-family news delivered straight to your inbox. 

Select Your Edition:


Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Shutterstock.com
Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

,

Judges order Arizona and Indiana to recognize gay ‘marriages’ on death certificates

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

Two federal judges have ordered Arizona and Indiana to recognize same-sex “marriages” on death certificates, although both states have laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

In Arizona, Judge John Sedwick ordered the state to issue a death certificate for George Martinez listing his marital status as “married” and his spouse as Fred McQuire.  The two were “married” in California in July, and Martinez died in September.  They had previously sued Arizona to recognize their out-of-state “marriage” as legal – a case that is still ongoing.

In his decision, Sedwick said that the majority of federal appeals courts have found that “marriage laws which discriminate between heterosexual couples and homosexual couples infringe a fundamental right.”  He said he thought it was likely that Arizona’s marriage protection law will soon be overturned. 

Sedwick’s decision applies exclusively to Martinez and McQuire.   The judge explained that given the likelihood of same-sex “marriage” becoming legal in Arizona, he didn’t want McQuire’s “marriage” to be excluded from recognition just because his “husband” died before the law could be overturned.  He said he hoped the decision would prevent “the loss of dignity and status coming in the midst of an elderly man’s personal grief.”

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Meanwhile, in Indiana, Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen presided over an agreement between the state and a lesbian couple, Veronica Romero and Mayra Yvette Rivera, who “married” in Illinois in March. The state agreed to recognize the couple’s “marriage” because Rivera is dying of ovarian cancer, and said they will issue a death certificate bearing Romero’s name as “spouse” when Rivera passes away. 

Indiana opted to concede the case mostly due to its striking similarities to an earlier case the state lost, in which Judge Richard L. Young ordered Indiana to recognize the “marriage” of Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler, who “wed” in Massachusetts in 2013.  Quasney also has terminal ovarian cancer, and the couple had argued that Sandler and her two children would suffer irreparable financial harm if the state does not recognize their “marriage” so that Sandler can collect death benefits when Quasney passes away. 

Both Indiana decisions apply only to the couples named specifically by the court; however, last week, a federal appeals court upheld an earlier ruling by Judge Young declaring the state’s marriage protection law unconstitutional. 

The state of Indiana has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
A topless activist with Femen attacks Belgian Archbishop Andrè-Joseph Leonard, who is known for his strong pro-life and pro-family stance.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Why are pro-abortion protesters always taking their clothes off?

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

I’ve seen a lot of bizarre responses to pro-life activism. There’s the crude picket signs, the illiterate chants, the flashes of violence, the incoherent threats that so often seem to involve used tampons, and even activists dressed up like giant genitalia.

But there is one phenomenon that never ceases to stagger me with its counterproductive stupidity and moral blindness: The increasing prevalence of “feminist” protestors, almost exclusively women, stripping down to “protest” something—usually protection for the pre-born or some other dissent from the totalitarian death cult of the Sexual Revolution.

When people ask me what the weirdest response to pro-life work is and I try to explain this phenomenon, they find it hard to believe. So do I. But yet it happens, time and time again.

The suicidal tendencies of modern-day feminism would be almost laughable if they were not so depressing.

One student stripped down and sat on a folding chair in front of our pro-life display at the University of British Columbia. A few protestors decided to protest the launch of our 2012 national tour by going topless. Then, at a presentation in London, Ontario, a bunch of pro-abortion protesters showed up at a counter-protest organized by the Canadian Auto Worker’s Union, sans clothing. And of course, at last year’s March for Life a topless Femen protestor flung herself at a remarkably composed Catholic bishop as he spoke to the crowd, shrieking “F*** your morals!”

You’d think such behaviour would attract ire rather than admiration. But this is 2014 and most of our municipal governments use our taxpayer’s cash basically to fund a day dedicated to that type of behaviour when the Pride Parade rolls around.

Follow Jonathon van Maren on Facebook

Instead, these women are now generally referred to as “brave.” Even the popular, but tiresomely far-left website Upworthy recently pushed a video with a street activist protesting harassment by misogynist pigs by standing on the street in her lingerie. (Little tip: Protesting the fact that some misogynists define you by your body by voluntarily showing them what they wanted to see in the first place isn't defiance, it's acquiescence. Protesting the fact that these guys aren't treating you with dignity by acting like you have none is counter-productive. “That guy crudely suggested he wants to see me naked! Well, I’ll show him! By showing him exactly what he wants to see! Wait…”)

A bit of research into the infamous nude activist group Femen (“Our mission is protest, our weapon is bare breasts”) shows just how exploitative (inadvertent though it may sometimes be) this entire phenomenon is. In recent documentary the group’s leader, Viktor Svyatski, admitted that he had perhaps started the group to “get girls,” and that he carefully selected only the most attractive girls for his group. The documentary also revealed that Svyatski had described the Femen girls as “weak,” and was often verbally abusive with them.

Again, the suicidal tendencies of modern-day feminism would be almost laughable if they were not so depressing.

But the phenomenon of public nudity is also more than just incoherent protest—it is a way of forcing people to accept any and all manifestations of the Sexual Revolution. As I noted some time ago:  The public is now regularly subjected to crude and wildly exhibitionist “Gay Pride Parades” and “Slut Walks.” These are not considered to be optional festivals hosted by tiny minority groups. No, politicians who refuse to attend are labelled as heretics by the high priests of the New Moral Order, which is of course not an order at all, but a proud lack thereof.

Liberal activists don’t want the State to be outside the bedroom anymore, they want the State in the bedroom—loudly applauding the acts they see taking place, refraining from any judgment but one of approval, and paying for pills and bits of rubber to ensure that such acts do not go awry and result in reproduction or infection.

Your prayers are not welcome in public, but your privates are. The Emperor has no clothes, and is quite enjoying it—so long as the chilly breezes of moral truth don’t leak out of drafty cathedrals to cause discomfort.  

There may be hope on the horizon, as indicated by the wild popularity of such books as Wendy ShaIit’s A Return to Modesty, as well as increasing disinterest in topless beaches in places like France. Some “feminists” have responded to such trends with irritation, grumbling that all the hard-won ground they had fought for is being spurned by the ungrateful brats of today. But perhaps, instead, many women are realizing that allowing men to freely objectify them in public is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Perhaps people have begun to rediscover a human value that was once enormously prized, but now almost forgotten: Dignity.

Follow Jonathon van Maren on Facebook

Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Shutterstock.com
Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

Abortion ‘doula’: I was trained to ‘support’ women choosing gendercide

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

A young woman who volunteers as an assistant in the abortion industry says she was trained to be “supportive” of women who chose to have sex-selective abortions and 11-year-olds who opted to remain in a sexual relationship with their much older rapist.

Alex Ronan also describes the conscious decision to lie to patients and the graphic, bloody details of her first year as an abortion doula in an article published Sunday in New York Magazine.

An abortion “doula” – a Greek word that literally means “female slave” – is supposed to comfort women during the abortion procedure. The 23-year-old received her training from Lauren Mitchell, who co-founded The Doula Project with Mary Mahoney in 2007.

“We sat in the park, eating pie,” Ronan remembered:

She gave us a sheet with situations so exaggeratedly horrible they seemed unreal: An 11-year-old in for an abortion who asks for birth control when she’s alone with the doctor. Her mother works nights; she’d been left with a friend who has a twentysomething son. She calls him her boyfriend; he will go to jail. A woman who says she’d like to do another ultrasound to see if it’s definitely a girl, because she’ll only keep it if it isn’t. A drug addict covered in track marks with two kids in the foster-care system who refuses birth control.

“What do you assume?” Mitchell asked of each case. “How can you be supportive?”

The 23-year-old said, as the training went on, she realized these cases were not hypothetical. “Later, I learned from Mahoney that all the examples were real cases that had come from her first six months working as an abortion doula.”

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have repeatedly been caught covering up statutory rape – by pro-life sting operations and outraged parents – as well as facilitating sex-selective abortions.

Faced with the reality of abortion, Ronan said she felt “embarrassed” by “the limits of my compassion. I judged these women on the worthiness of their reasons ('Would she really only keep a boy?' I wondered) and found myself questioning why those who come in for late-term abortions had waited so long to decide.”

Soon, she would see cases she would never forget. She bookends her article with two stories that reveal the pain women suffer in the process and the gory details the procedure burned into her mind.

She saw an emergency that ended in a hysterectomy on her first day.

The abortionists moved up the late-term procedure after seeing the woman's reaction to laminaria. “I hear one doctor tell the other that there’s too much blood,” Ronan writes. “They have to cut into Dee’s abdomen to get a clearer picture of what was going on...Eventually, they have to remove the uterus; there isn’t any other way.”

After the procedure, “What’s called the products of conception bucket is mostly filled with bloody gunk. I make out a doll-size arm, fist curled. It feels like I shouldn’t look, but I can’t turn away,” she admits.

Soon, she got her opportunity to “support” a minor in an “abusive” relationship. Afterwards, “Eliana” asked Ronan, “Do you think I’m too young for an abortion?”

“I tell her no. I think she’s making a really responsible choice,” she writes. “She looks at me, says, 'Do you even know how old I am?' I shake my head no. 'I’m 14,' she says.”

Ronan did not indicate that she or anyone at the abortion facility reported the abuse, or encouraged Eliana to do so.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

When abortion volunteers speak to one another, they acknowledge they have seen everything – “the patients who have second thoughts, and the ones who get abortions for reasons that make you feel uncomfortable. These images are the stuff of pro-life campaigns, the ones that try to make women change their minds.”

Rather than help women face the facts, she said she often acts as a “distraction” to women. “When the patients stand, I see the blood stains on the white paper, a little or a lot,” she writes. “I step between them and the bed, to block their view of the blood.” Mitchell suggested doulas make small talk about astrology, but the writer chooses to talk about the Kardashians.

Part of that abortion industry's “distraction” involves lying, Ronan confesses. As a part of the abortion process, you “quickly learn that you do whatever you need to and ... sometimes you are dishonest. In the beginning, I shadow a more experienced doula as she reassures a patient that the woman in the next room screaming wildly is not here for the same procedure, though, of course, she is.”

She has also seen women who did not want to have abortions but feel they have no other option.

“A doula tells me a story about a woman who wanted to continue the pregnancy but had lost her job, run through all her savings, and was living in a homeless shelter.” For this reason, crisis pregnancy centers offer free medical procedures, diapers, baby clothes, and sometimes financial support to struggling mothers.

Another woman chose life too late. She scheduled a second-trimester abortion, because her child might not belong to her boyfriend. That morning, after the two-day procedure had been initiated, he told her they should keep the child anyway. “I can't, though, right?” she asks. “Since she’s already done laminaria, it’s unclear what would happen if she stops at this point.” She ended up aborting to assure the child would not be born with a birth defect. “I don't know what she wants and I don't know that she does, either,” Ronan says.

Ronan also reveals the often icy indifference of the industry to women's suffering.

She remembers another second-trimester patient named “Princess” who began having contractions, yet the doctor pushed her abortion back all day long. When she feels her child coming out, about to be born alive, the doula seeks help, but the coordinator tells her “coolly” that the doctor is unavailable. After she pleads for help, the abortionist dispatches an attending physician who performs the abortion.

“The fetus comes out easily; they put it in the bucket and shove it near me. It is fully intact, curled on its left side, fists closed, knees bent up,” Ronan writes. Looking at the dead child's mother, she thinks to herself, “He sleeps just like you.”

She immediately has “a second thought, an act of distancing: He looks more like an alien than a person.” An employee at Dr. Kermit Gosnell's late-term abortion facility, Sherry West, said one child who was murdered after being born alive screamed and screeched “like a little alien.”

But for all the pain they have witnessed, abortion doulas are relatively unmoved about what they are doing.

Doula Project co-founder Mahoney has admitted “those pictures pro-life activists flash are real.”

“When you see the procedure, you must decide, as a pro-choice person, whether you are in or out,” Mahoney said. “I have never been more in.”

Ronan seems to be in for the long haul, as well. Abortion “strikes me as strangely similar to birth, only the opposite word and a different outcome.”

Advertisement

Customize your experience.

Login with Facebook