Down Syndrome and Abortion

In recent weeks, several state legislatures, including Arizona and South Dakota, have gained increasing support for laws that would ban abortions for babies with a genetic abnormality diagnosis. This includes conditions like Down syndrome. In Denmark, for example, almost 98% of all babies with a Down syndrome diagnosis are aborted each year. In Iceland, only one or two babies are born with Down Syndrome. The rest are aborted. Why is that? This post will look at the main arguments and reasons for these startling statistics.
Despite being scientifically lauded, advances in prenatal testing have had a devastating effect. The fact is that prenatal testing allows for couples to decide whether or not a baby can live. Although prenatal screening is promoted to give families time to “plan” or be “informed”, if a baby has an identifiable genetic abnormality, many families decide to end the pregnancy. There is a misconception that a genetic disorder like Down syndrome means an extra burden on the families and even society at large. This is a troubling but very real consequence of prenatal testing, especially since the majority of people who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis do abort their babies.
Not surprisingly, pre-screening and prenatal testing is a hot button issue in the political sphere. There are heated opinions on both sides. Many pro-life advocates defend the rights of the unborn babies, whose fate are decided by families and the health professionals who may, however unwittingly, steer their decision in a certain way. The baby in the womb ultimately pays the price for this decision.
On the other side, advocates for prescreening insist that it is a fundamental “right” and vital part of women’s health. The choice to end a pregnancy for any reason, they argue, should rest with the woman.
Misconceptions and assumptions about Down syndrome also plays a role in why women decide to abort. Some recent statistics from 2011 indicate an “elimination rate” of 67% in the US. More than two thirds of American babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome were aborted. These numbers suggest an alarming negative opinion not only of genetic abnormalities but also the value of a certain kind of genetics. This is concerning, particularly in light of Denmark and Iceland’s population in which only one or two children a year are born with Down syndrome. Education and information on Down syndrome, including the advances in life expectancy, are a helpful and initial way to address what some describe as genetics-based genocide.
Are you or someone you know pregnant with baby with a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis? Schedule a confidential meeting with one of our Clearway Clinic Advocates. We can help point you in the direction of resources to be informed and educated about Down syndrome – and that abortion isn’t the answer.

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