I believe that states are ill-informed and poorly guided to consider legislation that would ban abortion on the basis of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. In fact, I think those efforts are counter to what the well-meaning ban advocates hope to accomplish.
So, let's be clear. Right now, states like Ohio want to put a condition on when a woman can have an abortion and when she can't. Do you want an abortion because you don't feel like getting fat? Go on, then. Nothing on this checklist to say you can't do that!
But, wait. Do you want an abortion because a screening indicated a higher chance that your child will be born with Down syndrome? People supporting a ban based on that diagnosis say that's unacceptable. Choose abortion for any number of reasons, but dear God, not because of an extra chromosome.
Frankly, it sounds like we're so afraid that people will be unable to see a positive side to having a child with Down syndrome, our only recourse is to force them to give birth. Excellent. Let's force a woman to give birth. Is the next step to legislate that the mother therefore will support, love and never resent that requisite child?
Of course not. Abortion opponents are all about forcing life, but how many are equally active in ensuring those lives are full of love, resources and inclusion?
The ban advocates and I agree on one thing: People with Down syndrome have value. I cannot emphasize that enough.
But if you think an effective way to stop abortions of babies with Down syndrome is by banning abortion for that reason, you're wrong.
Abortions will continue, legally and safely or illegally and at the risk of the woman. Placing conditions on the decision will add another cloak of shame and secrecy on a dialogue that's already taking place in the shadows of OB offices and the privacy of couples' bedrooms, without accurate, updated, unbiased information.
Stop placing conditions on when we will allow a woman to make decisions about her body and an unviable fetus.
Stop pouring energy, resources and money into bans and focus on the advocacy and education that can lead to informed decisions — decisions that may choose a child's life regardless of chromosome count.
If the myriad organizations that advocate for people with Down syndrome would put egos, agendas and in-fighting aside and listen to the medical community — the folks who are on the front lines of helping expectant women make informed decisions about the future of their pregnancies — change can happen.
Materials exist that give expectant women an accurate view of what having a child with Down syndrome truly means today.
If we put more resources and money into our educational system to ensure children with any type of different ability are effectively included in a general education classroom and beyond the classroom, mindsets will shift.
If we stop trumpeting the rights afforded us by the First Amendment and agree that hurtful language like the R word needs to end not because of a law but because it's the right thing to do, mindsets will shift.
It's all a domino game. Inserting spongy blockades like legislation won't keep a woman from aborting a child likely to be born with Down syndrome but rather will add an additional layer of shame, secrecy and fear. What if we replaced shame with education, judgment with accuracy and blame with compassion? Imagine.
A generation can grow up knowing and valuing someone with an extra chromosome. It's an extra chromosome, people! I've always loved the analogy that the DNA of someone with Down syndrome is like baking a cake with an extra egg.
The end result is still delicious.
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