by Barnabas Ney
November 1-7 has been designated “National Down-Syndrome Awareness Week” by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. This is an important event, a celebration of our common humanity in all its diversity and I would like to share some thoughts on this topic.
Whilst there are a plethora of reasons to talk about such an event and Down Syndrome (DS) in general; my main motives are simple. One might say “it is all in the family”: my mother, at the time Dr.. Peeters, was a geneticist/ pediatrician who worked closely with Dr. Jerome Lejeune (the geneticist who discovered that Down syndrome was due to trisomy of the 21st chromosome and who was an outspoken advocator of the pro-life position). A cousin works as in an advocacy group defending and assuring the best care for people with disabilities. I also have an inherent love for all those with Down Syndrome and greatly admire their individual strengths and abilities.
So it was natural that my first thoughts of this public awareness campaign were directed towards several children and young adults with DS that I have been privileged to know, and have friendships with, over the years. Their contagious smiles and steadfastness in friendships have warmed my heart on numerous occasions. I wish that more of us had the chance to know and love them. What is important is that you respect and love them because they are our fellow brothers and sisters and as each one of us is unique so is it with people with Down syndrome.
That is precisely the reason I was so glad to hear of this week dedicated to gaining awareness and, more fundamentally, promoting the culture of life. The Canadian Down Syndrome Society writes that their goals for this week are to raise awareness on how induvial with DS have their own unique abilities and are contributing to their communities, and to strengthen the national effort to ensure equitable opportunities for all.
Now this is something I am of course very happy to hear! Equality of opportunity for all Canadians regardless of genetics or any-other criteria! But wait a minute. What about those not how are not given the opportunity to be born? How about becoming aware of this. Roughly 92% of all pregnancies in Europe that involve babies with DS end in abortion. Approximately 67% is the equivalent statistic. This is the complete antithesis of equality.