AUCKLAND, New Zealand, July 4, 2012 ( – The Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to launch an inquiry into a complaint against the New Zealand Government’s antenatal screening program for Down syndrome and other conditions.

The complaint was filed with the ICC by SavingDowns, the Spina Bifida Association of New Zealand (SBNZ) and Right to Life New Zealand. SavingDowns is an organized group of parents with children with Down syndrome.

The groups allege that the screening program, introduced nationally in February 2010 by the Ministry of Health, targets unborn children with Down syndrome and other conditions such as Spina Bifida for birth prevention. They also claim that such programs are eugenic, discriminatory and put parents under undue pressure to abort wanted babies.

“The Ministry of Health directed that doctors and midwives were obligated to offer screening to all pregnant women in New Zealand,” explained Ken Orr, spokesman for Right to Life NZ.


Orr said that one of the stated objective of the program was “to prevent the births of babies born in New Zealand with Down syndrome and other conditions such as Spina Bifida.”

“This is eugenics that decrees that only the perfect may be born. It is a crime against humanity,” he said.


SavingDowns spokesman Mike Sullivan said that the Prosecutor’s decision indicates that the ICC is taking the complaint very seriously and that the case has sufficient merit to warrant comprehensive legal analysis.

“New Zealand is signatory to the Rome Statute, under which the ICC operates,” Sullivan pointed out. “The persecution of an identifiable group of the civilian population through birth prevention is prohibited under the Statute.”

In an interview on TVNZ’s Breakfast show Sullivan said this is an issue that people throughout New Zealand, and the world should be aware of. “It is one thing to screen for conditions antenatally in order to look after mother and baby to the best of the medical profession’s ability, and another altogether to screen in order to eliminate the birth of babies with certain conditions.”

“We welcome this examination as an unprecedented step towards respecting the lives of those with Down syndrome, Spina Bifida and other conditions. Such people live awesome lives, are loved members of their families and communities, and should be afforded the full protection of international law on an equal basis with all,” Sullivan concluded.


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