CAMBRIDGE, April 5, 2005 ( – A study published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows a bias in favour of abortion from doctors who inform women on their options with a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome. The study’s author writes that after the possibility of Down’s Syndrome is shown, mothers reported that “the doctors did not tell them about the positive potential of people with Down syndrome.”

After a pre-natal diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, doctors and other health professionals, the study found, also often fail to give up-to-date information on the latest findings on Down’s Syndrome or refer mothers to Down’s Syndrome support groups. The medical presumption seems to be in favour of abortion, a practice which is lauded by many in the bioethics community as a moral form of eugenic ‘racial cleansing.’

The study, authored by Brian Skotko of the National Down’s Syndrome Congress, surveyed 2,945 mothers of children with Down syndrome. It showed a predisposition to abortion among medical professionals after amniocentesis shows even a possibility of Down’s Syndrome. It has become routine to offer pregnant women, especially those over 35 prenatal screening for Down’s Syndrome. Such testing, however, does not give a certain diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, but only a percentage possibility. Nevertheless, the abortion rate with even an uncertain pre-natal Down’s Syndrome diagnosis is extremely high, with some studies showing as many as 90% of children aborted.

Brian Skotko is a joint-degree student at Harvard Medical School and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has a 24-year-old sister with Down syndrome and has co-authored the book, Common Threads: Celebrating Life with Down Syndrome.

The women surveyed said in written comments that physicians should know that women seeking advance testing are not necessarily thinking of abortion. They requested that physicians not begin by saying, “I’m sorry,” or “Unfortunately, I have some bad news to share…” They are also asking that accurate and current information be provided. One mother surveyed said that her genetic counsellor “showed a really pitiful video first of people with Down syndrome who were very low tone and lethargic-looking and then proceeded to tell us (in 1999) that our child would never be able to read, write, or count change.”

“Physicians must now realize that many mothers who opt for prenatal testing have no intentions of terminating their pregnancies and are offended by their physicians’ assumptions that they would do so.”

Skotko writes, “With the appropriate sensitivity and explanation, obstetricians can make the births of children with Down syndrome celebratory experiences for those mothers who choose to continue their pregnancies after receiving prenatal diagnoses.”


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