The tragedy of Down Syndrome abortions

I had a lot of contact with kids affected by Down Syndrome when I was younger.  There was a Camphill community not far from where I lived that catered for a number of them.  I used to visit them from time.  The kids were usually joyful, happy, laughing.  There was a moral dimension, too . . . according to classical theology, they literally could not commit sin, because they were not capable of understanding or applying concepts such as morality.  According to what I studied at seminary, they were deemed perpetually innocent.  Be that as it may, I learned early and often that their mental disability did not make them any less lovable or ‘special’ as human beings.  They deserved life, and the opportunity to pursue happiness, as much as I did.

That’s why it’s so tragic to learn that in the USA, up to 85% of babies diagnosed in the womb as possibly – not definitely, possibly – suffering from Down syndrome are aborted.  This isn’t done for any reason affecting the health of the mother;  it’s done because an arbitrary decision has been made that such children aren’t worth the extra effort, or ‘trouble’, involved in raising them.  Even worse is the fact that testing for Down syndrome is not infallible – in fact, I understand there’s a significant ‘false positive’ rate.  That means perfectly healthy, normal children are being aborted for no reason at all.

There’s a sobering, thought-provoking article about this tragedy over at First Things.  I highly recommend that you take the time to click over there and read it.  No matter whether or not we agree about abortion or related matters, I think most will agree that this is a tragedy with many facets and dimensions.  It’s made worse when competing influences, interest groups and moral perspectives clash headlong over what to do about it.  Inevitably, the ones who suffer most are those who are most directly affected by the conflict . . . the innocent children in the womb.

Sad indeed.



  1. My wife and I made the decision not to even have the test taken, despite our health insurance and doctor's suggestion/insistence that we should. My wife's only comment to the doctor was, "It doesn't matter what the result is, we're not murdering our child."

    That ended the conversation.

    I've known several families with a child with Down Syndrome. Yes, there is definitely extra effort involved in raising a child with Down. Hey, guess what? There's extra effort in lots of things, and extra effort usually comes back as extra reward.

  2. We had a similar experience as Shrimp when we were having Boo. Our doctor suggested testing for Downs, but we decided against it. It wouldn't make a difference on whether or not we brought him into the world, and a positive result would cause a lot of stress that wasn't needed.

  3. Unlike the other two commenters we opted for the prenatal testing for one and only one reason: to be prepared for any kind of difficult birth. We live in the middle of nowhere and the hospital closest to us is a small rural hospital. If there was any kind of birth complication we could foresee (and trisomy 21 often comes with birth complications) we wanted to be able to make arrangements to be at the closest children's hospital. Abortion didn't even enter our equation, just a sense of making sure the pregnancy and birth were as healthy and complication-free as possible. In fact that's how my OB presented the option to begin with, as a way to be prepared if we knew something could go wrong. These tests can be used to save lives just as much as they can be used to end lives. It's all in how you use the information you're given.

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