Friday, July 23, 2010

This Picture Sums It Up

What is wrong with people?


A baby is a blessing.  Even a handicapped baby is a blessing.


I didn't always feel this way.  When I was younger, I supported the right of a woman to make her own choice about having an abortion.  Especially in cases of Down Syndrome; that seemed, to me, to be the ultimate hard-case situation that made abortion the logical choice.


I married on January 12, 1974.  That same month, the Supreme Court legalized abortion.  The next year, a friend of mine had an ectopic pregnancy, and had it terminated for medical reasons.  I talked to her, and found that she was relieved that the process was so quick and easy.


That was one of my few personal connections to abortion.  Most of my friends were Catholic, and, although their fidelity to the rules was variable, abortion was the Big No-No.


Since then, it's been considered "normal" to check for chromosome status, and abort Down Syndrome babies.  When a woman finds out that she is carrying a baby with Trisomy 21, but DOESN'T choose to abort, the reaction from most of the country is, "why not?"


This is why.




I agree - there are many things in life worse than having Down Syndrome.  There is willingness to kill all of the members of that group. Just for having a different number of chromosomes.


Some facts about Down's:
  •  A 2002 literature review of elective abortion rates found that 91–93% of pregnancies in the United Kingdom and Europe with a diagnosis of Down syndrome were terminated.
  • Even with the best non-invasive screens, the detection rate is 90%–95% and the rate of false positive is 2%–5%. Inaccuracies can be caused by undetected multiple fetuses (very rare with the ultrasound tests), incorrect date of pregnancy, or normal variation in the proteins.
    • In other words, SOME of the pregnancies that are diagnosed to be babies with Down's are perfectly normal.
  • Cognitive development in children with Down syndrome is quite variable. It is not currently possible at birth to predict the capabilities of any individual reliably, nor are the number or appearance of physical features predictive of future ability. Since children with Down syndrome have a wide range of abilities, success at school can vary greatly, which underlines the importance of evaluating children individually. The cognitive problems that are found among children with Down syndrome can also be found among typical children.

Things have changed in my lifetime.  When I was young, instititutionalization was common.  Parents were advised to "put the child away, and forget about it."  Since then, parents have treated Down's like any other disability, and, to the surprise of many "experts", these individuals have been found to have widely varying abilities. Medical treatment has also changed.
In the past, prior to current treatment, there was a 38-78% incidence of hearing loss in children with Down syndrome. Fortunately, with aggressive, meticulous and compulsive diagnosis and treatment of chronic ear disease (e.g. otitis media, also known as Glue-ear) in children with Down syndrome, approximately 98% of the children have normal hearing levels.
I expect that other facets of the laundry list of problems Down's people often have will also show that aggressive treatment bears fruit.


And, if not all the medical problems go away, so what?  Do we kill the imperfect?


If so, both on physical and other grounds, I'm toast.  In addition to my other imperfections, I'm hard of hearing - I wear a quite expensive hearing aid.

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