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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent


Mélanie has Down syndrome. Last night her dream came true: to be a weather girl on TV

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

PARIS, France, March 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — At 21, Mélanie Ségard is a not only a charming young lady, she’s also a happy one: a girl with a dream come true.

More than 5 million French viewers – that’s a 20 percent share of the total audience – watched her present the national weather forecast on Tuesday evening on the main public station, France 2. No big deal? Wait! Mélanie has Down syndrome. And the public loved it.

Mélanie has dreams and ambitions like the rest of us. When she told the National Union of Parents of Mentally Handicapped Children (UNAPEI) of her dearest wish, they liked the idea. One of their objectives is to promote a positive image of the mentally handicapped.

Mélanie had the makings of a perfect messenger for the 65,000 people suffering from the anomaly related to a triple chromosome 21. But they didn’t hand it to her on a platter. They helped, but the success was hers.

At the beginning of the month, Mélanie Ségard posted a video message on a special Facebook page promising that if she got 100,000 “likes” she would present the weather bulletin on television. “Mélanie can do it,” it said.

She obtained more than 200,000 “likes” in 10 days. Meanwhile, several broadcasters contacted UNAPEI to say they were interested. France 2 was chosen as the most symbolic network on which to promote the handicapped rights: state-funded and widely watched.

On the big night, after having been coached by her “godmother” for the occasion, French actress and TV presenter Catherine Laborde – Mélanie can’t read – the young girl came on the set, radiant with happiness. Kindly helped along by the program’s usual presenter, Anaïs Baydémir, she forecast clouds, rain and sunshine for the following four days, reminding viewers to congratulate their friends named “Louise” on that saint’s feast day.

Baydémir then folded her young colleague in a warm embrace. Viewers were treated to a few images of Mélanie getting professional makeup for the recording and her joyful smiles when her job was done. The clip attracted several million views on Facebook and is still going strong.

The touching adventure of Mélanie Ségard was made possible by many friends and found sympathetic ears in the most unexpected places. Television magazines were full with stories of her presentation. At the shopping center last Saturday near Paris, there were video advertisements prompting shoppers to watch her weather forecast on France 2. Suddenly, France was discovering the beauty of human life, however fragile. Mélanie’s communicative enthusiasm has certainly changed the way many French people regard “trisomy,” as it’s called here.

In France, the “medical abortion” of babies with Down syndrome is legal beyond the normal deadline for elective abortion – 12 weeks’ gestation – right up to term. Screening for Down syndrome is all but compulsory. That includes routine sonograms, and 100 percent refunded blood screens for all women, followed by amniocentesis (a dangerous procedure for the child that involves an invasive procedure to obtain liquid from the amniotic sac with a large needle, with between one and two miscarriages for every 100 tests) when the blood screen reads positive.

Of every unborn baby diagnosed with Down syndrome, 96 percent are aborted. Their mothers being put under tremendous pressure to do so by the medical profession, not least because lawsuits have been won by parents angry to have given birth to a handicapped child whose illness had not been diagnosed.

And things are about to get worse. A new, cheaper and non-invasive prenatal test is set to be approved by the social security scheme, with full public funding: a simple blood test that allows the diagnosis of many genetic abnormalities in the fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation. Once that is integrated into the public health insurance system, it is “hoped” 100 percent of all Down syndrome babies will be identified before birth and aborted at an early stage.

This gives Mélanie’s initiative, and the very positive reactions to it, a sour-sweet taste.

Strangely enough, the event was welcomed by a member of the government media watchdog, the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), Mémona Hintermann.

“These iconic, off-the-chart events, allow opinions to change. Melanie Ségard has opened a door. She has the courage to say: I’m not like you – so what?” she commented.

That same CSA barred a video co-produced by the French Fondation Jérôme-Lejeune showing children and young people with Down’s syndrome under a positive light. Dear Future Mom was censured for French television on the grounds that it could “disturb” women who might have decided or wanted to decide not to keep their unborn child with because it had that condition. Last November, the supreme administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, judged that the CSA had acted correctly in forbidding the film to be broadcast.

People with Down’s syndrome are mentally handicapped. But those who think they’re better off dead have neither rhyme nor reason.

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