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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

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