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Down Syndrome, Abortion, Eugenics

Posted Jun 07 2012 12:00am
Two recent blog posts have been on my mind over the past several days. I have too much to say to leave my thoughts in a comment section, thus my own blog post.

The posts were a bit hard to read as I felt they were brash and demeaning towards individuals with Down syndrome ... and of course I have a completely different point of view since I'm raising a child with Down syndrome.

Her argument is that abortion based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome isn't eugenics and those who claim it is are ignorant to the definition of what eugenics is. She says that eugenics is, 'in short...the science of improving the human population through controlled breeding." (That definition is in the The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary.) Since it is a women's choice to have an abortion and it isn't being systematically forced on them via the government, then it isn't eugenics.

I would take it a step further and say an acceptable broader reach of that definition - improving the human population - also means the elimination of, or prevention of, people with disabilities ala Peter Singer . "It endorses selection according to desirable and undesirable genetic traits, and favors the elimination of the latter."

I agree that abortion is a woman's choice. But beyond that I'll argue that there is a difference in having an abortion because you don't want a baby and having an abortion because the baby you wanted and planned to have was diagnosed with Down syndrome. In that case you're not aborting because it wasn't the right time to have a baby, but instead aborting the baby you planned to have because of a genetic condition. Yes, I know it's still the woman's choice to continue the pregnancy after receiving such a diagnosis, but there is another option - adoption.

There doesn't have to be the widespread encouragement that the 'best' thing to do is abort a baby with Down syndrome. That is the systematic elimination of people with Down syndrome because of their genetic make-up and continued misinformation of what life is actually like for a person with Down syndrome, or raising a child with Down syndrome. In the broader sense of the definition that falls under eugenics. One only has to read the article about Denmark wanting to be a Down-syndrome free country to see this is happening.

The majority of information given from the medical community is negative and a whole bunch of potential medical problems. The entire life of a person with Down syndrome is reduced to all the medical complications they might encounter. What about all the other aspects of their lives? There is more to life than just what you might have to deal with medically.

The above blog posts continues to perpetuate the negative as well with this "There are a lot of complications and repercussions in embracing this condition as a normal part of the human gene pool. Some conditions are at higher risk with this disorder such as infertility, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, cancers of several kinds, thyroid disorders, gastrointestinal issues, celiac disease, Hirschsprung's disease, deafness, blindness, cataracts, spinal cord compression and other issues."

All of those conditions are NOT unique to Down syndrome and they occur in the rest of the human gene pool as well. You most certainly can have any of those conditions and NOT have Down syndrome. Having epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and cancer etc is not limited to individuals with Down syndrome. Any one of us could develop any of those medical conditions so how is it fair to say those with Ds are at a higher risk (and just how much higher is the risk? For some of those conditions it could be a small, slightly increased risk) for those conditions and should therefore be eliminated? You could be at higher risk for heart disease because of your own family history, so should you have been eliminated? Should you not have children of your own because they might get heart disease? You can't predict what medical conditions a person with Down syndrome might develop.

And a piece of information that is usually left out is that those with Down syndrome who are diagnosed with cancer have a higher incidence of surviving cancer.

She continues with the 'dangers of carrying a child afflicted by this condition' and among the lists of these dangers are: hearing loss, frequent ear infections, hypothyroidism, cervical spine instability, visual impairment, sleep apnea, obesity, constipation, and on and on.

"Dangers" seems a bit dramatic to me. Certainly a cervical spine instability is dangerous to the child if not detected and corrected (which is why the medical guidelines for Down syndrome include having an xray done to check for AAI). We've come a long way with medical care and all of those 'dangers' can be helped by the medical establishments. And again - each and every one of those problems can happen in the typical population as well ... they are NOT unique only to people with Down syndrome.

Despite all the negative information given with a Down syndrome diagnosis, and misconception that those with Ds and their families 'suffer' studies show the opposite to be true . Those with Down syndrome are happy with their lives and are not suffering.

Down syndrome is a naturally-occurring part of the genetic make-up that has occurred before it was ever identified as such. Who are we to say that it is 'abnormal' to be born with 3 21st chromosomes instead of 2? Who decided to say that it can't happen both ways (as it obviously does). It is just a part of how you're created - blond hair, curly hair, freckles, Trisomy 21.  

In her comment section she goes on to say, "Down's Syndrome will (hopefully) eventually be another one of the crippling, hindering conditions of mankind eliminated from our genome. How is that not considered eugenics? Eliminate an entire group of human beings from 'our genome' because they have 3 chromosomes instead of two? People with Down syndrome are very much the same part of 'our genome' and throughout history, as a whole, have done nothing to others to deserve such vile hatred and contempt for their mere existence. They also do not live with a crippling, hindering condition.

It continues with, "Ultimately, if more people were better educated they would see that eliminating something so horrid from our gene pool would only benefit the future generations of the human race. It's a non-arguable topic, to be quite honest." Again, this thought process is eugenics because it's based on benefiting and bettering the human race by targeting and eliminating a group of people based on what? A medical condition. A syndrome. They are targeted before birth for elimination.

I'm trying not to take the description of 'so horrid' personally, but honestly, there is nothing 'horrid' in my beautiful daughter. I find the views and opinions on those blog posts utterly horrid and close-minded. And I will be forever thankful that a child with 3 copies of the 21st chromosome was created in my womb and not the writer's; because if it were reversed that child wouldn't be here today to fully enjoy life and all it has to offer. 

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