NEW YORK, February 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life activists say they are thrilled that the UN is sponsoring its first World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), which will be celebrated at the UN Headquarters in New York on March 21 2012, with the focal point of the day being a conference titled “Building Our Future.”
Monica Rafie, the co-founder of Be Not Afraid, an online pro-life ministry that supports parents who are grappling with a poor prenatal diagnosis, including Down syndrome, told LifeSiteNews that the event “presents a beautiful opportunity to showcase the genuine solidarity shared among organizations and families everywhere.”
Diane Grover, co-founder of the International Down Syndrome Coalition for Life, pointed out that the greatest challenge facing people with Down syndrome “is actually being born.” She said that she hopes the international celebration will draw attention to the extremely high abortion rate for Down’s children.
World Down Syndrome Day was established by Down Syndrome International and has been celebrated without UN-sponsorship since 2006. Over 60 countries in the world observe the day, which is held on March 21st (21/3) to signify the three copies of chromosome 21, which is unique to people with Down syndrome.
A resolution to designate 21/3 as “World Down Syndrome Day,” to be observed every year beginning in 2012, was adopted by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011. The resolution was proposed and promoted by Brazil, and co-sponsored by 78 UN Member States. The resolution states that from 2012 onwards, the date will be celebrated by all 192 UN countries.
“When families learn that they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome (or any other prenatally diagnosable condition), they need to know that they and their child will be supported and accepted within their own community,” Rafie of Be Not Afraid told LifeSiteNews.com. “WDSD is meant to foster that sense of community on a macro scale.”
Rafie pointed out in an article previously published by LifeSiteNews that the primary threat to persons with Down syndrome is abortion.
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Diane Grover agreed. “We believe that taking a life because the child has an extra chromosome is a form of eugenics. By far, this is the most discriminating act that is happening to individuals with Down syndrome today! We believe that dignity for a person begins at conception.”
Grover’s organization not only advocates for the dignity and respect for all individuals with Down syndrome, from conception and throughout life, but also extends compassion and hope for healing to the families who lost their children when they had an abortion.
“The IDSC for Life was formed when a small group of mothers learned of the pressure put on women to terminate their pregnancy,” Grover said, “and the unfortunate numbers that followed through and did end their pregnancies. This broke our hearts. So we came together to advocate for our children, telling the world that ALL life is precious, including the lives of our children.”
“It has been reported that up to 90% of women with a confirmed prenatal diagnosis will terminate their pregnancy. Often times it is reported that women are given the gloomiest prognosis for their child, instead of up to date information and support.”
“However,” Grover remarked, “today, more than ever, people with Down syndrome are breaking barriers.”
The Down syndrome activist pointed to a research paper released by Dr. Brian Skotko which found that 99% of people with Down syndrome said that they are happy. The paper also found that “their parents and siblings say that their family member with Ds has made them better people.”
“We hope that World Down syndrome Day will bring attention to these incredible statistics.”
When asked what support parents with Down syndrome children need most, Grover responded enthusiastically, “The very first thing the parents need is to be told congratulations! They are expecting a child, and to say you are sorry, or to infer that they should end the pregnancy, lowers the dignity of the life of their child.”
“After the birth of their child, they need support and encouragement. In time, they will see that their child with Down syndrome is just that, a child. They need and deserve up-to-date information to help give their child the best they can. And they need respect. When a mother says she does not want to end her pregnancy, in light of a Ds diagnosis, that decision needs to be respected, by professionals, family members and anyone surrounding her.”
Grover said that her organization is producing a video that will be shared at the WDSD, and that they need the support of families with children with Down’s.
“We hope that anyone who has a child with Ds will write us to find out how they can participate in this. For this video, we are asking parents to write on a poster board advice they would give to themselves, prior to experiencing having a child with Down syndrome, and take a picture with that advice to your self, and send it to us at email@example.com.”
Organizers of World Down Syndrome Day say that participants from all around the world are welcome, especially those with Down Syndrome, and that there is no cost for registration. Space is limited so those interested in attending should register early as only participants with their names on the list and proper ID will be allowed in the building.
The event is sponsored by the Missions of Brazil and Poland to the UN and co-organized by Down Syndrome International, the UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and UNICEF, with the collaboration of the Brazilian Federation of Associations of Down Syndrome (FBASD), Down España, the Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation (DSRTF), the National Down Syndrome Center (NDSC), the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), and the Special Olympics.
The aim of the day is to raise awareness and understanding about Down syndrome, and to promote the inherent rights of persons with Down syndrome to enjoy full and dignified lives and be active and valuable participants in their communities
More information is available from the Down Syndrome International website.
For more information on Be Not Afraid Ministry visit their website here.
For information on the International Down Syndrome Coalition for Life and their WDSD video project visit their website here.