by Ken and Kim Falkenstein
It is all the rage right now to declare oneself a member of some percentage of something. Here’s ours: 92% of babies with Down Syndrome whose parents learn of the condition during pregnancy are aborted. More specifically, 6,000 babies with Down Syndrome are born each year, while 69,000 are aborted simply because they’re not “normal.”
Our son Josh is part of the other 8%.
We understand the emotional devastation of learning that your unborn child has Down Syndrome, and believe us, we’re no heroes.
Early in our pregnancy, we underwent genetic counseling. At the time, we knew were having twins, but that was all we knew. We were told that we could have a procedure called a CVS at 12 weeks that would reveal with a very high rate of accuracy the sex and genetic condition of our twin sons. We were also told that there was a 2% risk that the procedure would result in a miscarriage. We decided to go forward with the CVS.
While we were waiting for the results, we discussed what we would do if one or both of the babies was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. I’m ashamed to say that we considered the option of abortion.
We got the call a few days later: Both of the babies were boys – and one of them had Down Syndrome.
We hung up the phone feeling dumbfounded and devastated. After a few silent tear-filled minutes, one of us finally voiced the question that we were both thinking: “What are we going to do?”
We agreed immediately, without any need for discussion, that there was no question: The fact that our son was not going to be the “normal” child that we imagined he’d be was a shocking surprise, but it didn’t change the fact that he was our son, and we loved him no matter how God created him. There was no choice to make.
Unfortunately, 92% of parents in our situation see it differently and choose to abort the pregnancy. In doing so, they let fear overcome love, and they not only snuff out a precious and valuable life at its inception, but they deprive themselves of the joy of raising a child who will bring a joy to their lives that they could never have imagined. Indeed, in a recent survey of parents of children with Down Syndrome, 79% said their child had given them a more positive outlook on life, while only 4% said they regretted having the child.
This week, we were horrified to learn that a study that we had agreed to help is now expected to result in an increase in abortions of children with Down Syndrome.
Last year, when we met with the genetic counselor early in the pregnancy, Kim was asked to donate blood to a study to develop a new screening test that could be used to make the same kind of diagnosis as a CVS weeks earlier in the pregnancy through a simple and safe blood test that would eliminate the risk of miscarriage. We agreed.
That blood screening test is now available and being used in 20 cities – and the consequences of the availability of this test are horrifying:
A new, simple way to detect Down syndrome in a fetus means the condition will be virtually extinct. . . .
The safer prenatal screenings will likely mean more women will be tested, and the number of women carrying babies with Down syndrome who terminate their pregnancies could increase, if not skyrocket.
Keep in mind that the “skyrocket” increase in abortions would be from the already appalling current level of 92%.
Put simply, when everyone can learn early in the pregnancy whether their child has Down Syndrome, then everyone who is pregnant with a child with Down Syndrome can abort that child.
Worse, many will be encouraged to abort their child. Already, 23% of genetic counselors admit to presenting only negative information about Down Syndrome and encouraging parents to abort babies with Down Syndrome.
“This is the beginning of a long-term enterprise of eugenics whereby we are about to have more and more powerful technologies that will allow us to determine the physical and genetic legacy of our children,” [Paul Root Wolpe, director of the center for ethics at Emory University] says.
The wildest dreams of the eugenicists of yore are about to be realized: Down Syndrome is about to be expunged from the Earth – at the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of innocent and defenseless babies whose lives will be snuffed out in infancy because we as a society decided that their differences from us rendered them unworthy to live.
We agreed to participate in the study that led to this screening test because we wanted to help eliminating the risk of miscarriage. It never occurred to us that the actual result of this study and of the resulting screening test would be the extermination of hundreds of thousands of precious, beautiful, and innocent children simply because our society thinks they’re not pretty enough or smart enough to deserve life.
If we sound bitter, we are. We feel duped, and we feel disgusted and ashamed that we helped contribute to a screening test that has already resulted in a revival of the evil of eugenics.
But, ironically, bitterness is an emotion rarely felt among the gentle and loving souls of our brethren with Down Syndrome. Monica and David Martinez are a married couple who both have Down Syndrome. Monica responded to the news about the development of the new blood screening test and its terrible consequences by posting the following on her Facebook page:
Yesterday I posted an article which declared “the end of Down syndrome”. Many of you replied with hurt and anger, but I encourage you to use this as motivation to move things forward. The more we encourage our cousins, sons, daughters and family members/friends with Down syndrome or other disabilities to live, work and love out in the community, the more the world begins to see what we see every day…just how amazingly ordinary a person with a disability can be.
Thank God that Monica Martinez was part of the other 8%.