BLOGThe Deadly Cost of Promoting Inconsistent Messages about Down Syndrome

By Marissa Mayer Posted on: | March 21, 2018

Have you seen pictures of the new Gerber baby?

One-year-old Lucas Warren from Georgia is the picture of happiness. His grin lights up the room. Lucas also has Down syndrome.

Lucas’ new title of “Gerber Spokesbaby” is a great win for a community forced to overcome huge obstacles just to be born—let alone have their existence celebrated.

After all, an in-utero diagnosis of Down syndrome most often results in death—and not because there’s something particularly deadly about Down syndrome. In the U.S., the percentage of babies with Down syndrome who are aborted is about 67 percent. Worldwide, that number can get even higher.

Last August, CBSN: On Assignment did a segment on abortion rates of babies with Down syndrome in Iceland—nearly 100 percent. Here’s how the network promoted the segment on Twitter.

The network’s failure to acknowledge that it was children with Down syndrome who were being eliminated, and not the chromosomal disorder itself, was condemned by many who were quick to correct the misstep—like actress Patricia Heaton.

And for good reason. Tiptoeing around the reality that children with Down syndrome are more often aborted than not is dangerous—and comes at a deadly cost. 

Consider for a minute how history has treated people with Down syndrome—and how far the community has come despite all the challenges they’ve faced. 

According to the National Association for Down Syndrome, in the early 1900s, most children who were born with Down syndrome were institutionalized—wasting away in horrific conditions. As recently as the early 1980s, the average life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome was 25. Today, that number has jumped to 60 years of age.

People with Down syndrome are living fuller, healthier, happier lives than ever before. We see it all around us. The Special Olympics, the child models with Down syndrome, viral videos of young adults with Down syndrome being asked to prom or being accepted into college. Individuals with Down syndrome are speaking out in front of state and federal legislatures testifying to their own value and happiness. And yes, even becoming the face of a national baby food brand.

All that progress, and yet, the statistics are still overwhelmingly in favor of abortion.

Iceland and the U.S. are just part of the story. In Britain, it’s 90 percent. In France, it’s 77 percent. In Denmark, 98 percent of babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Worldwide, children with Down syndrome continue to be aborted en masse.

That’s why it’s time to calling out this atrocity for what it really is. This community of people cannot afford any weakness on our part in acknowledging the real horror of what is happening to them. Their lives are on the line.

Washington Post opinion writer George F. Will hit the nail on the head—this is genocide. This is the systematic elimination of people with Down syndrome. And it is tragic.

We must shine light on this darkness if we are going to put an end to this tragedy and truly affirm that the lives of people with Down syndrome are precious gifts. The viral videos and spokesbaby titles are a step in the right direction, but they are not enough. We must call out those who are encouraging and facilitating this genocide.

That’s why when Planned Parenthood fights efforts to make it illegal to abort a baby because he or she has Down syndrome, you call them out.

That’s why when people like Richard Dawkins say that children with Down syndrome are better off if they are aborted, you call him out. 

That’s why you don’t gloss over genocide with a talking point about Iceland “eliminating Down syndrome” like doctors made some amazing medical discovery. You call them out for what they are really doing.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. And while I am incredibly thankful for the progress, there is so much more work to be done. We cannot say that individuals with Down syndrome are valued and respected in our culture when our society is guilty of ending their lives at such alarming rates.  

So yes, let’s celebrate the lives that add so much joy to those around them. Let’s put their faces on TV and on social media and give them a platform to speak out and educate. But let’s also fight for these lives. Our culture will be better off for it.

Marissa Mayer

Senior Web Writer

Marissa Mayer is an Arizona native who fell in love with the written word at a young age.

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