Another way of seeing Down syndrome

by Oxford Students for Life

Not long ago a friend of mine – who is in his late thirties – said something which I can’t get out of my head. ‘Twenty years ago,’ he remarked, ‘walking down the street, you would see plenty of Down syndrome kids. And now – you just don’t see them.’

The reason is not a secret. According to the 1967 Abortion Act, abortions can be carried out on four grounds, the most commonly applied being ground a):

that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family.

But there is also ground d):

that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

No 24-week limit here: in other words, if you have ‘abnormalities’ – which is interpreted to include Down syndrome – under UK law your life counts for less. And as recent news has shown, not only do many of these deaths go unrecorded, but over 90% of British boys and girls with Down syndrome are never born. Hence my friend’s observation.

It all suggests that our society has chosen to see Down syndrome as meaning ‘not good enough’: not meeting our standards of conventional physical appeal, or intelligence, or economic productivity. But there is another way of seeing Down syndrome, expressed very movingly in this beautiful video. Please watch it – it’s only two minutes long:

(D.H.)

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