Joni and Friends Blog

Down Syndrome: Changing the Conversation

Today is World Down Syndrome Day and it’s a wonderful day to celebrate people who have an extra 21st chromosome.

Yes, I do mean celebrate! According to research, individuals with Down syndrome love who they are and the life they live. Why is it, then, that babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are targeted for abortion? In places like Iceland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are being “eradicated” at overwhelming levels. These precious lives are tragically ended before birth. Many other countries follow close behind… including the United States where the overall Down syndrome population has decreased by 30% through targeted abortion.

In any other context, this type of intentional effort to prevent births of a certain kind of people would be considered genocide… and is even a part of the very definition of genocide used by the United Nations. Unfortunately, when it comes to aborting children with Down syndrome, that is not the case.

But attempts are being made to change the trend! In Ohio, for instance, there is a law known as the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, and it’s designed to prevent discrimination by banning abortion on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis. This law is not intended to place pressure on already overwhelmed parents, but instead to prevent doctors from advocating for abortion based on the diagnosis alone.

But the devil’s not going down without a fight. In March of last year, a judge struck down the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act. However, in an unusual decision, the federal appeals court chose to rehear arguments for the case this month. This is fantastic news, considering that the U.S. Department of Justice even filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing the value of such laws. In fact, here’s one quote from the brief:

“It protects individuals with disabilities from prejudice and indifference and the medical profession from harm to its integrity and reputation. The law also wards against the slippery slope to medical involvement in race- or sex-based abortions. And it protects women themselves by separating them from potentially coercive abortion providers who may seek to pressure them into obtaining an abortion because of Down syndrome.”

Don’t you agree that’s a strong argument? And I’m praying that the justices will rule this law as constitutional. Because parents who are fearful of bringing into the world a child with a disability should not be met with a strong recommendation for abortion. With support, information and all the facts, expectant parents can look forward to the blessing of their baby.

You will be interested to know that similar laws have been introduced in other states and even in the United States Congress. Individuals with Down syndrome are fighting the misconceptions about their worth, happiness and limits. They are redefining conversations by sharing insights into their lives as entrepreneurs, actors, innovators, models, advocates and so much more.

So please, let’s affirm the value of persons with Down syndrome as our friends and as a part of our community. Help change the cultural mindset that a life with Down syndrome is not worth living. A great place to start is by visiting the Joni and Friends Public Policy page. While you’re there, be sure to check out the personal story of my friend and co-worker Shauna Amick and her daughter Sarah. And then… take the time to share it! Our goal is to help educate everyone in the church that life is worth living, no matter the diagnosis.

My Baby Has Down Syndrome

When Nicole and her husband first decided to grow their family, they never considered that their daughter Sage might be born with a disability.

On this episode of the podcast, Nicole walks us through the thoughts and emotions that she experienced following her daughter’s diagnosis of Down syndrome, and how her outlook has shifted over the past three years. Don’t miss this open conversation about the real fears, challenges, and blessings of being a special needs mama.

Listen Now!