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Planning to screen out Down Syndrome undermines World Down Syndrome Day

Today is World Down Syndrome Day; a day when the world celebrates the lives and achievements of people with Down Syndrome.

It is a day when a global voice is heard, advocating for the rights, inclusion and wellbeing of people with Down Syndrome. In Australia the day is celebrated with morning tea events and people wearing all sorts of brightly coloured socks.

It’s a joyful day.

People with Down Syndrome on the surface have the same rights as every Australian, and they have the same need to feel welcome to participate in all aspects of life. For those with Down Syndrome, the most disabling experience can often be the barriers presented by the attitudes of others. Attitudes that can make them feel like they don’t belong; that they are in some way a burden.

This sadness often stems from the fact that babies suspected of having Down Syndrome are aborted at a higher rate than unaffected babies. While exact figures are not available, various studies report that between 67 per cent (the United States) and 92 per cent (Europe) of the babies in question are aborted. 

In Australia, a controversial new prenatal test is projected to result in a substantial increase in the number of children with Down Syndrome being aborted each and every year. Understandably, advocates for people with disabilities are concerned about its use as tool of eugenics and those within the Down Syndrome community worry about the long-term effects on the population of their community and thereby the Government services and support that are provided to them.

How incredibly sad that in this day of supposed acceptance of diversity, that certain people face being ‘screened out’ and being made to feel like they should not have ever been born.

On this World Down Syndrome Day let’s reaffirm the value of every single human life, created in the image of God and worthy of dignity and respect.

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