Mark W. Leach

99% of people with Down syndrome say they are happy: so why are most Down’s babies aborted?

Mark W. Leach
By Mark Leach

October 12, 2011 (thePublicDisourse.com) - October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Fittingly, the American Journal of Medical Genetics recently published groundbreaking research that challenges conventional wisdom about raising a child with Down syndrome (DS). Responding to these studies, noted bioethicist Art Caplan predicted that, nevertheless, they will not “make a bit of difference to parents deciding to end pregnancies once [DS] is discovered in the fetus.” Actual experience contradicts Caplan’s pessimism.

The new research reports the findings of three surveys in which thousands of parents and hundreds of siblings and individuals with DS themselves, were questioned about what it is like to be affected in one way or another by DS. Ninety-nine percent of parents said they loved their child with DS and 97 percent were proud of them; only 4 percent regretted having their child. While 4 percent of siblings would “trade their sibling” with DS, 96 percent indicated that they had affection toward their sibling with DS, with 94 percent of older siblings expressing feelings of pride. Finally, although 4 percent of individuals with DS expressed sadness about their lives, 99 percent said they were happy with their lives and 97 percent liked who they are.

Caplan believes that most mothers will still abort, even after this research has been released, simply because it is a fact that, currently, most mothers do abort following a prenatal diagnosis. This fact, however, does not support Caplan’s callous conclusion that “Down syndrome is almost universally seen as something to be avoided.”

The most recent studies find that there are more babies than ever being born with DS in the United States. Moreover, there are hundreds of families on waiting lists to adopt a child with DS. As for the high percentage of mothers who terminate, that does not support the conclusion that they are seeking to avoid DS.

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Certainly some are, but study after study has found that up to half of all women accepting prenatal testing did so without making an informed decision, and that half did not expect they would have to decide whether to abort following a prenatal diagnosis. To his credit, Caplan recognizes that prenatal testing can result in uninformed and unexpected decisions to terminate, due to medical professionals and general society often having “nothing good at all to say” about DS. Indeed, one study has found that almost a quarter of physicians actively urge abortion, or emphasize the negatives about DS in order to encourage it. Even for those committed to non-directive counseling, a majority of physicians and genetic counselors have said that they would abort following a prenatal diagnosis for DS, which no doubt affects how a diagnosis is presented. Other recent studies also have found that a significant percentage of adults, youths, and physicians still hold outdated views about DS and would prefer that children with DS were segregated from, rather than included in, the community and typical classrooms. Therefore, those who choose to abort often are seeking to avoid an inaccurate, uninformed, and overly negative view of a life with DS, which is not supported by the current research.

Caplan laments that this “climate for having kids with Down syndrome, happy though they may be, is not good.” But Caplan’s own words contribute to maintaining this lamentable climate.

Caplan writes as though aborting a fetus somehow avoids Down syndrome. An abortion will prevent a child from being born, but it will not prevent that child from having DS; DS occurs at conception. Caplan ends his column by stating that “an abortion for medical reasons is a highly personal decision.” Yet, there is not a medical reason for aborting because of a prenatal diagnosis for DS. DS does not pose a risk to the health of the mother or the child. (Caplan refers to heart and stomach defects that some children with DS have, but these can now almost always be treated surgically.)

Nevertheless, the climate of ignorance about, and prejudice against, DS does exist, which is why this new research needs to be shared with the medical community and with expectant parents. While Caplan calls for this, he is simply wrong to assume that sharing this information will not make a difference. The most influential information an expectant mother receives is from her physician and from written resources. Physicians should be well-informed about DS and provide accurate written materials to their patients. Ignorance and prejudice persist, however: over 80 percent of medical students are not trained in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities, and almost 60 percent of medical school deans do not believe they should be. Further, while most physicians now offer prenatal testing to all expectant mothers, less than a third provide them with educational materials.

This pervasive, self-imposed ignorance in the administration of prenatal testing for DS is contrary to ethical medical practice because it denies expectant parents the information they need to make informed decisions. The same studies that identified the pervasiveness of outdated views about DS also found that those who knew someone with DS were more accepting of DS, and that was true as well of physicians who knew someone with DS, as compared to those physicians who had not known any. Despite their rising birth rate, those with DS remain an incredibly small minority population. This is precisely why providing information about these new studies is so important, for most expectant parents and their physicians will not otherwise have or understand the positive experience of getting to know a person with DS.

The further significance of the new research is that it addresses the concerns of mothers who have aborted following a prenatal diagnosis. These mothers were concerned that the condition would be an excessive burden on them and their other children, and that DS may be too much of a burden for the child him- or herself. The three new studies directly counter these concerns and more, as they reveal a truth not often considered: a child with DS will almost always be a positive force in the lives of his or her parents and siblings. The studies found that 79 percent of parents felt that their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with DS. For siblings, the response was even greater, with 88 percent feeling that they were better people because of their siblings with DS.

The most recent practice guidelines call for sharing positive stories about DS, and the new research provides physicians with those positive stories. These stories do indeed matter. Kathryn Lynard Soper is the author of Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives, which is an approved resource by the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ practice guidelines. The introduction to the book’s sequel, Gifts 2, presents compelling evidence of how sharing positive stories can and will make a difference. Soper writes of co-hosting a new parents’ workshop at the National Down Syndrome Congress convention. A woman holding a baby started the Q&A time with the following comment: “This is Grace. I just wanted you to know that if I hadn’t read your book, my daughter wouldn’t have been born.”

Contrary to Caplan’s opinion, DS is not something almost universally sought to be avoided. Moreover, sharing accurate information about DS, the newest of which is overwhelmingly positive, can and will change expectant parents’ views following a prenatal diagnosis. This is in the best interest not only of those who are conceived with Down syndrome, but also of those who are blessed to know them.


This article originally appeared on Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ. It is reprinted here with permission. Mark W. Leach, Esq., is an attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Bioethics. He is the founder and chair of the Informed Decision Making Task Force for Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action and was a contributor to Gifts 2. The views expressed are entirely his own.

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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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