On Down Syndrome and Abortion

by Stephanie Hauer


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An in-utero diagnosis of Down syndrome is dangerous. If a doctor predicts that a baby has Down syndrome, that diagnosis is usually followed by a discussion of abortion. In Denmark, the abortion rate for babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb is averaged at 98%. In 2010, that rate was 100% - all 156 babies diagnosed in the womb were killed because of their disability. In England, babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted at a rate as high as 90%. In America, this rate is estimated between 67% and 90%.


Far too often, if a doctor believes that a baby will be born with Down syndrome, they will tell the parents that their child will likely never be independent, never be fully capable, and always live a life of struggle. The doctors will focus on the potential health risks and complications, feeding into the impression of immense struggle and danger, failing to mention the potential for hope. Down syndrome may change the way that a person lives their life, but it does not mean that their life is not worth living. Great progress is being made in medical care for people with Down syndrome, so the average life expectancy has increased from the previous estimate of twenty five years up to the current projection of sixty years. Schools and workplaces are developing programs and initiatives that enable individuals with Down syndrome to integrate more fully and more naturally into such environments. 99% of people with Down syndrome responded positively to a happiness survey; that’s 18% more than the general population. Tryn Miller, who has Down syndrome, has said, “If I were to change having Down syndrome, I wouldn’t! I am proud of who I am and that makes a strong person and says who I am. I may be different, but everyone is different in their own unique way. If I didn’t have this extra chromosome, I wouldn’t be me! I am thankful to have Down syndrome because I just want to make a difference in this world, I feel like I am!” People with Down Syndrome live meaningful lives with dignity.


Pushing for the abortion of babies in the womb diagnosed with Down syndrome is disability-based discrimination. It is an expression of eugenics, and it cannot be tolerated. The value of life is inherent to an individual’s humanity; it is not dependent on their chromosome count, the measure of their abilities, or their life circumstances. All people deserve the right to live free of aggressive violence. A diagnosis of Down syndrome does not take that away. Everyone should be given the chance to live a full life until their natural death.


Five states have put forth legislation which bans abortion if it is sought solely due to a Down syndrome diagnosis. In Ohio, for example, if a doctor performs an abortion with the knowledge that the diagnosis is the only motivating factor, that doctor can lose their license; the person seeking the abortion would receive no legal penalty. These laws are a great start to end the discriminatory and ableist selection process that kills innocent babies in the womb.


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