A topic that frequently gets overlooked was brought to the attention of many thanks to 60 Minutes. In August they aired a special on how Iceland has almost completely eliminated Down syndrome in their country. In the special they implied this as a huge medical accomplishment and an even bigger advancement for science. What they didn’t tell you was that Down syndrome hadn’t been eliminated: babies with Down syndrome were being killed off through abortion.
Discrimination against people with Down syndrome isn’t new. For years many women have been encouraged by their physicians to have testing while they are pregnant to check for an array birth defects. Often when birth defects are diagnosed the women are pressured to have abortions.
These innocent human beings are being killed without their consent simply because their lives are thought by some to be not worth living. A 1998 study from Wayne State University found that 87% of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome were aborted.
Down syndrome babies aren’t the only ones being targeted. From 2002 to 2010 in the United Kingdom twenty-six children diagnosed with cleft lips or palates—conditions that are correctable by surgery—were aborted because of their disabilities. Those children would have had the opportunity to live out a completely normal life, but instead they were aborted.
While the majority of abortions are done for purely social or economic reasons, the fact that there are high numbers of abortions being done on babies with birth defects raises troubling questions about how we as a society are caring for the most sick and vulnerable.
Disabled individuals, no matter what age or status, are human beings worthy of protection. To say a disabled person is less of a human being diminishes the respect for every human life. The value of life does not depend on looks or abilities. There is innate dignity in every human life.
ABORTION AND DISABILITIES FACTSHEET (PDF)