March 8, 2018 (Human Life International) – For the first time ever, Gerber has chosen a baby with Down syndrome as their official "Gerber baby." Baby Lucas, whose infectious smile is certainly an attention grabber, was chosen from among 140,000 applicants. The position comes with a $50,000 prize, which Lucas' parents say they intend to put towards his education.
While Gerber's decision may ultimately be motivated more by good marketing than the desire to do a good deed, I strongly applaud their decision. After all, if there's anything that activists have learned over the decades, it's that visibility matters. Part of the reason that as many as 90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted, is because of the pervasive ignorance that surrounds the condition.
By beaming Lucas' smiling face, and the self-evident love that his parents have for him, all around the world, Gerber is giving visibility to the dwindling Down syndrome community, and helping to correct the some of the many myths about Down's – myths with literally murderous consequences.
Down Syndrome Is Not a Life Sentence
The Down syndrome abortion holocaust is driven primarily by ignorance and fear. The antidote to fear is hope, and the antidote to ignorance, facts. And in the case of Down syndrome the facts strongly support hope.
The authors of one study, which I will never tire of citing, interviewed thousands of people with Down's, as well as their parents and siblings. They found that 99% of people with Down's describe themselves as "happy." Meanwhile, 99% of parents said they love their child with Down's, and only 4% said they regretted having their child.
This isn't to say that there aren't sometimes enormous challenges in raising a child with Down's – but what it does say is that for the vast majority of people, the positives overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives. Unfortunately, many parents of children diagnosed with Down's aren't given the facts, and without the facts, are robbed of hope.
Famous actress Sally Phillips was one of these women. In 2016, she teamed up with the BBC to make a film arguing against the introduction of a new, non-invasive test that is purported to be 99% accurate in detecting Down syndrome in utero. In that film, Phillips describes the moment doctors told her that her son Olly had Down's, shortly after Olly's birth.
"The doctor said to us: 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.' The nurse on duty cried. I don't think anyone said anything at all positive," says Phillips, known for her role in the Bridget Jones Diary movies. "It wouldn't have been any different if they'd told me my child wasn't going to make it."
Phillips was lucky, however, in that her son was already born. Had her son been diagnosed in utero, there's every chance that she would have been strongly pressured into aborting. And given that she is pro-choice, she may well have given in. Phillips, instead, was given the chance to experience what life is actually like for a child with Down's. And what she found didn't at all measure up to the doom and gloom of medical professionals or the pity of her friends.
"I was told it was a tragedy and actually it's a comedy," she says. "It's like a sitcom where something appears to go wrong but there's nothing bad at the end of it."
Another mother, Dr. Lise Poirier-Groulx, says that when her child was diagnosed in utero with the condition, it was simply "assumed" that she was going to abort. "Everywhere I went it was assumed."
"I got mostly cold stares and silences – Is this doctor for real? What is she doing? – that kind of attitude. We had to constantly state it: No, we don't want to terminate. There was none of this talk – the pros and cons, positives and negatives of having a handicapped child. We never got that. It was just negative, when do you want to do it (the termination) type of thing."
This pervasive atmosphere of hopelessness in the medical community can have a profound impact on vulnerable mothers and fathers, preying upon their already existing fears of the future, and magnifying them outside of any due proportion. In the end, they are never given the chance to see Down syndrome for what it is – a part of their experience as parents, and one that comes with very real difficulties, but difficulties that are dwarfed by the physical reality of the beauty and dignity of their child.
Overwhelmed by their fears, many parents will simply opt to abort as the quickest way out of their predicament. They are thus robbed of the opportunity of facing those fears, and of finding the enormous joy and love that are on the other side.
As one mother who admits she was terrified and in a "dark place" for a long time after receiving the diagnosis says: "The only way out of grief is through it. You have to feel it. You have to cry. You have to get pissed off. But do all this with a hopeful heart. The love for your child just comes, whether you want it to or not."
A Twisted Irony
Last year, a woman with Down syndrome, Charlotte "Charlie" Fien, gave a moving speech to the U.N. She was inspired to write the speech after seeing Phillips' documentary. In her speech, Fien compared the systematic elimination of babies with Down syndrome to the Nazi's targeted elimination of individuals with disabilities.
"I am not suffering," Fien said told the U.N. delegates. "I am not ill. None of my friends who have Down's syndrome are suffering either. We live happy lives."
"We just have an extra chromosome," she added. "We are still human beings. We are not monsters. Don't be afraid of us. … Please don't try to kill us all off."
At the end of the speech Fien received a standing ovation.
There is a twisted irony in the positive reception of Fien's speech, however. Many of the U.N. delegates who stood and applauded her likely support abortion on demand. While they might be willing to applaud a woman like Fien, and even appreciate her defense of the disabled, they would not have had any objection had Fien's parents chosen to abort her.
One such U.N. delegate is Ben Achour, ironically a member of the U.N. Human Rights Committee. After he gave a speech defending aborting babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, Fien shot back with a video of her own.
In his speech, Achour had stated: "If you tell a woman your child has …Down syndrome. If you tell her that, or that he may have a handicap forever, for the rest of his life, it should be possible for her to resort to abortion to avoid the handicap [as] a preventive measure."
Fien's response to Achour was blunt. "It's disgusting and evil," she said. "You need to apologize for your horrible comments. You should also be removed from the Human Rights Committee as an expert. You are not an expert about Down syndrome. You sir, do not speak for my community. … I will fight for our right to exist for the rest of my life."
This exchange between Fien and Achour exposes the twisted irony at the heart of our society – that we profess to be willing to bend over backward in order to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities, and yet that we have no problem with eliminating those very same people before birth. Even as we have a U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that lays out myriad ways that the rights of people with disabilities should be protected on a global scale, we also have members of the U.N. Human Rights Committee openly defending the slaughter of those same people
Gerber Baby "Shines Light"
The timing of Gerber's decision couldn't be perfect. March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day. It's a great opportunity to raise awareness about Down syndrome – in particular by sharing the unsung positive reality of life with Down syndrome.
Lucas's mom, Courtney, has expressed her hope that Gerber's choice of her son as Gerber Baby "shines light to the special needs community, showing that they are just like you and me. They should be accepted, not based on their looks, but based on who they are."
"My biggest concern always with Lucas was how people were going to treat him," she told the Today Show." I was always afraid he would be bullied or people would be scared of him. It's never once changed how we felt about him. He was always our son."
So why not mark March 21st on your calendars, and on take the opportunity that day to share some of the many, many positive stories of Down syndrome? Our brothers and sisters with Down syndrome are under attack globally. The best way to stand up for their inherent dignity and right to life is by making them visible to the world. Gerber has lent a helping hand with their choice of Lucas. Now let's all pitch in, and bring a message of hope, not fear, to any parents who may find out that their unborn child has Down syndrome.
Published with permission from the Human Life International.