Karen Gaffney has participated in a relay swim of the English Channel. She has swum across Lake Tahoe, Boston Harbor, and San Francisco Bay (sixteen times). She has a college degree and an honorary doctorate.
She also has Down syndrome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every seven hundred babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome. About six thousand Down syndrome babies are born in the US each year.
Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels. No one knows what causes the chromosomal condition that produces it, though the chances increase with the mother’s age. Since many couples are having children later in life, the incidence of Down syndrome conceptions is expected to rise.
With recent advancements in clinical treatment such as corrective heart surgery, as many as 80 percent of adults with Down syndrome reach the age of sixty. Many live even longer. Studies show that 99 percent of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives; 97 percent like who they are; and 96 percent like how they look.
Why am I writing about Down syndrome today? Because the lives of these precious people are more endangered than ever before.
In Iceland, doctors are required to notify women about prenatal screening for Down syndrome. Eighty to 85 percent of pregnant women then take the test. Nearly 100 percent of those who receive a positive result terminate their pregnancy. Iceland isn’t alone—the termination rate in the United Kingdom is 90 percent and 67 to 90 percent in the United States.
At Landspitali University Hospital in Iceland, Helga Sol Olafsdottir counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality. What does she tell them? “We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication . . . preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder—that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”
No, it’s not.
A baby with Down syndrome is either aborted or allowed to live. He or she is not a “thing.” Every child is a person created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Iceland is not eradicating Down syndrome—it’s eradicating people.
Where do we stop? Prenatal screening can detect physical defects such as a cleft lip and palate, a malformed heart, a limb with a part missing, and spina bifida. It can also reveal genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.
Should all babies with these conditions be aborted?
In addition, prenatal screening can be wrong 50 percent of the time. How many babies are dying because of wrong information?
Watch Karen Gaffney’s amazing TED Talk and her claim that “all lives matter,” then ask yourself whether she should have been aborted. Then thank the Lord that your mother gave you life. And pray for expectant mothers to give their children the same gift their mothers gave them.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3).