Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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New Zealand gov’t facing charge of genocide for Down’s testing scheme

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, June 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Killing unborn children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome is “genocide” and “a crime against humanity,” a New Zealand pro-life group has said, an assertion they will be making in a case against the government at the International Criminal Court.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has recently launched a new ante-natal screening program for women whose children have a high risk of Down’s syndrome. Critics have accused the ministry of instituting the program by stealth and avoiding a public consultation. It has been revealed in the ministry’s own documents that officials feared controversy and media attention.

With statistics showing as many as 90 percent of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome being aborted in many countries, New Zealand Right to Life and an Auckland-based parents’ group has said that the program is tantamount to adopting a deliberate program of eugenics.

With its new scheme, Right to Life said, “the government is guilty of crimes against humanity under Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty of Rome, to which New Zealand is signatory.”

Article 7 prohibits the persecution of any identifiable group of people within the civilian population and Article 6 prohibits the prevention of births within that group.

“People with Down syndrome are clearly protected under the Treaty of Rome as an identifiable group of people, as their genetic identity is the sole basis of genetic screening.”

The group has asked that the government “immediately cease targeting unborn children with Down syndrome for selective abortion.”

If the government does not agree to this request, they say, a formal complaint will be launched with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accusing the government of genocide “by imposing measures to prevent births of children with Down syndrome.”

This week, New Zealand’s TV3 aired a program, Down But Not Out, that highlighted serious concerns that people with Down’s syndrome “may soon disappear from the face of the earth.”

The program asked whether the now-routine screening and abortions are a matter of “the most personal and private of decisions, or a question of our collective responsibility” to people with Down’s syndrome.

TV3 focused on a group of parents who have raised objections to the testing scheme, saying “simply put, the better the test, the fewer Down’s syndrome babies are born,” resulting in their children becoming “even more of a minority.”

The program featured 22-year-old Alex Sneddon, who is one of New Zealand’s surviving Down syndrome babies. Alex Sneddon holds down a job at the Auckland office of temp agency Drake International, volunteers at the local food bank, enjoys sports like swimming and judo and is a devoted church-goer. Asked what he wants most in life, Sneddon said “acceptance.”

His mother, and other parents interviewed by TV3, said they feared that a new government-sponsored screening program would result in society as a whole rejecting children with Down’s.

Ante-natal testing has increased in New Zealand as it has around the world. The result has been an explosion of eugenic abortions for children suspected of having Down’s.

One father, Mike Sullivan, has denounced the concept, common to most of the medical community, that testing and abortion is “best practice” for dealing with Down syndrome. If “the vast majority of unborn children with Down’s syndrome are being terminated,” he said, “and not being born, then to describe that process as ‘best practice’ for us as parents is very deeply offensive.”

Sullivan has identified such screening programs as eugenics. If New Zealand wants to debate the issue, he said, and “return to the social policies that were popular in German before the Second World War, then let’s have that debate.”

“As an individual and the parent of a child with Down’s syndrome, I would never accept that my child was any less human than others … I want my daughter to live in a society that values her life on an equal basis with others.”

Another parent identified the government’s motivation as economic: “It costs less not to have children with Down’s syndrome around, so it kind of looks like the government is working to do away with Down’s syndrome. It’s cheaper, you don’t have to pay for the special needs things.”

TV3 revealed a 2007 Ministry of Health document that showed cost effectiveness is a motivating factor. “The estimated cost of avoiding the birth of a baby with Down’s syndrome (about £38,000) is substantially less than the lifetime costs of care.”

Dr. Pat Toohey, a pediatrician with the Health Ministry who has worked with children with Down’s, denies that the government scheme is about avoiding their births. “The screening programme has the potential to enhance the lives of people with Down’s syndrome. By ensuring that babies who are born with Down’s syndrome…that their parents have the opportunity to get to grips with what the issue is,” he said.

Toohey said that the issue is not the government’s screening program, but with “what we as New Zealanders want to do about the issue of abortion that matters.”

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