October has been designated as Down Syndrome Awareness Month. President Donald Trump, who was elected as a pro-life candidate and known for making several such campaign commitments, released a statement on October 1.
The statement posted to the White House website is as follows:
During Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we celebrate the significant contributions that people with Down syndrome make to their families, to their communities, and to our Nation. We also salute the family members, caregivers, medical professionals, and advocates who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that these extraordinary people enjoy lives filled with love and increasing opportunity. As a result of these remarkable efforts, people with Down syndrome are living longer, more enriching lives than ever before.
This month, we renew our Nation’s strong commitment to promoting the health, well-being, and inherent dignity of all children and adults with Down syndrome. Through sustained advancements in education, research, and advocacy, we will further empower those with Down syndrome to pursue the American Dream of independence, pride in work, and full participation in civil society. We will also continue to increase public awareness regarding the true nature of this condition, and to dispel the stubborn myths about the degree to which it is disabling.
Sadly, there remain too many people – both in the United States and throughout the world – that still see Down syndrome as an excuse to ignore or discard human life. This sentiment is and will always be tragically misguided. We must always be vigilant in defending and promoting the unique and special gifts of all citizens in need. We should not tolerate any discrimination against them, as all people have inherent dignity.
The approximately 250,000 Americans with Down syndrome truly embody the great spirit of our Nation. They inspire joy, kindness, and wonder in our families, our workplaces, and our communities. We will always endeavor to make sure that their precious gifts are never maligned or taken for granted.
The statement is full of pro-life terms and statements, including the repeated mention of “inherent dignity,” emphasizing the protection of these lives by noting a need to “always be vigilant in defending and promoting the unique and special gifts of all citizens in need.” This point is again seen in the closing, by referring to “their precious gifts.” While “abortion” is never explicitly mentioned, one can infer that is what is meant by referring to those “that still see Down syndrome as an excuse to ignore or discard human life.”
Trump’s statement is not wrong, on both the good and more unfortunate side. The United States has some of the most permissible abortion laws in the world. When it comes to their citizens with Down Syndrome, however, there is perhaps no worst nation than Iceland, which has allowed nearly none of these citizens diagnosed in utero to participate in their society.
A statement from Sol Olafsdottir, who actually “counsels” women with test results positive for Down Syndrome, shows a much different view of the chromosomal disorder:
We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at 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.
Notice how stark in contrast it stands to Trump’s statement, particularly the opening, and the need to “continue to increase public awareness regarding the true nature of this condition, and to dispel the stubborn myths about the degree to which it is disabling.”
Even pro-choice politicians are able to see the value of those with Down Syndrome, as highlighted by an exchange between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a young woman, Natalie Dedreux, who has Down Syndrome. While Merkel regards abortion as being about “a woman’s right to choose,” she nevertheless affirmed the dignity of Dedreux and others, and mentioned legislation she and her party passed to mandate counseling of resources for those who may have children with Down Syndrome. With any hope, it’s a far cry from merely offering footprints of these aborted babies, like they do in Iceland.
While the news of “eradicating” those with Down Syndrome, which includes bragging about it, is almost too sickening to imagine, others have responded in more loving ways. In light of a CBS special on Iceland, social media responded by sharing how much their children and other loved ones are thriving with Down Syndrome. This display of love and respect for life is one way in which the American people can follow the president’s suggestions.
Those with Down Syndrome are likewise capable of incredible, heroic defeats.
Whatever their gifts and life experiences, those with Down Syndrome are worthy of life, from the moment of conception, and protection. It’s not merely important for the month of October, though this statement from the administration is certainly a good start.
The National Down Syndrome Society is also celebrating the month, noting that “During the month of October, we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make people aware of our abilities and accomplishments. It’s not about celebrating disabilities, it’s about celebrating abilities.”