Aborting unborn children with Down syndrome is ‘genocide’, UN told
‘This is a prenatal death sentence given to people who are completely innocent,’ a speaker said
Aborting a child with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is a gross violation of human rights and anti-discriminatory commitments, and can be considered genocide, according to speakers at a March 20 panel at the United Nations.
“Here at the United Nations there is much sincere talk and normally passionate action to fight against unjust discrimination,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations. “But as firm as these commitments are in principle, many delegations, UN agencies and active members of civil society tolerate gross violations of these commitments in practice.”
For example, groups that claim to advance the rights and equality of vulnerable women and girls are notably silent when pre-genetic screening followed by sex-selection abortion ends the lives of those they claim to defend, Archbishop Auza said.
“Such tacit cooperation in this lethal form of discrimination against girls is, at least, inconsistent,” and the inconsistency is even more pronounced in what is happening with those prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome, he said.
“Despite the commitments made in the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including that of the right to life, by all persons with disabilities,” he continued, “so many members of the international community stand on the sidelines as the vast majority of those diagnosed with Trisomy 21 have their lives ended before they’re even born.”
Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21, is a genetic condition caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of the 21st chromosome. Down syndrome causes a distinct facial appearance, developmental delays and mild to moderate intellectual disability.
Archbishop Auza said children with Down syndrome “and their families are simply among the happiest groups of people alive, and the world is happier because of them.”
He cited a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics by Harvard University researchers. It “showed that 99 percent of those with Down syndrome say they are happy with their lives … 99 percent of their parents said they love their child with Down syndrome, 79 percent said their outlook on life is more positive because of their child, and only 4 percent regret having their child,” he said.
A CBS News report in August 2017 said Iceland was on the verge of eliminating Down syndrome births.
“What it really meant was that it was eliminating those with Down syndrome because 100 percent of parents of babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome were choosing to end the life of their son or daughter,” Archbishop Auza said.
The growing availability of systematic prenatal screening is associated with increased abortion rates for babies with Down syndrome in Europe, Australia and China, according to Mary O’Callaghan, a public policy fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.
She said in many places, babies with disabilities are exempted from laws that limit abortion based on gestational age or capacity to experience pain.
O’Callaghan said the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities prohibits “laws which explicitly allow for abortion on grounds of impairment,” yet Yadh Ben Achour, a member of the U.N. Human Rights Committee, said in November 2017 that defending those with disabilities “does not mean that we have to let a disabled fetus live. This is a preventive measure.”
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