“State-of-the-Art Prenatal Testing” – A Eugenic Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Thank you to my husband, Ben, for writing this post.  

EUGENICS: “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed.”  [Merriam-Webster]

(Eugenics) “The study of human improvement by genetic means. The first thorough exposition of eugenics was made by Francis Galton, who in Hereditary Genius (1869) proposed that a system of arranged marriages between men of distinction and women of wealth would eventually produce a gifted race. The American Eugenics Society, founded in 1926, supported Galton’s theories. U.S. eugenicists also supported restriction on immigration from nations with “inferior” stock, such as Italy, Greece, and countries of Eastern Europe, and argued for the sterilization of insane, retarded, and epileptic citizens. Sterilization laws were passed in more than half the states, and isolated instances of involuntary sterilization continued into the 1970s. The assumptions of eugenicists came under sharp criticism beginning in the 1930s and were discredited after the German Nazis used eugenics to support the extermination of Jews, blacks, and homosexuals.” [Concise Encyclopedia]

I’m sad, but mostly angry, to report that the American Eugenics Society may still be alive and well and actively peddling its beliefs to any vulnerable mother who will listen.  Today, in a local parenting magazine, I read an “Advertorial” (better known as a paid advertisement masquerading as an editorial) stating that the “American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that all women presenting for prenatal care in the first or second trimester be offered the option of screening for Down Syndrome.”  Why?  The “advertorial” never addresses this.  If it looks like eugenics and walks like eugenics, it’s probably eugenics.

Instead of going into a 50-page diatribe, allow me this:  I want to believe that this recommendation from the ACOG is merely a distasteful attempt (we all make mistakes) to help drive revenue in the Maternal-Fetal Clinics of the United States and not a more ominous, poorly cloaked nod to the re-birth of eugenics in America. 

Quite plainly, it leaves me wondering why such a revered institution as the ACOG is permitted to mount a “Search and Destroy” campaign on fetuses with Down syndrome and why the citizens of this country sit back and allow it to happen. (Keep in mind, anyone who has celebrated a birthday was at one time a fetus.)

As the father of four children (two with Down syndrome), I shudder to think of the innocent lives that may be lost to this new testing option.  Aren’t you glad that your mother didn’t concern herself with your genetic code during the nine months prior to your birthday.

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Denise knows Beau

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I know Beau because I started a Challenger Division for Coastal Pop Warner Football and Cheer this season.  I saw the program in Raleigh and Charlotte and wanted to make a difference to the special children in our community.  I did not realize how much meeting Beau and his friends would make a difference to me and the other volunteers.

Beau’s family was excited about the program from the beginning and I worried it wouldn’t be enough or that I would do something wrong.  But Beau comes to the field every Saturday lighting up the world and making my day.  It is amazing to watch him take control of all of us, the Hoggard High School Football players who come to volunteer, the other children and myself.  He has a presence that commands attention and respect.  At the same time, he makes us laugh and reminds us of the important things in life; friendships-when he greets all of us like we are his best friend and shares stories and songs from his favorite movie; laughter-like when he “tackles” the high school volunteers or randomly asks their names and then proceeds to give them a new name; and love-the hugs goodbye to everyone he can reach before we leave the field and cheering on his other friends when they do something well. 

I feel so blessed to have met Beau just a few weeks ago and I am thankful that his parents are sharing him with us.  I pray that they continue to let him be a part of this program so that he can continue touch our hearts and make our world a better place.

National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

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October is National Down syndrome Awareness month.  In celebration, I thought I’d take a moment and share with you what I know about Down syndrome. 

Having a child with Down syndrome is a blessing.

Having two children with Down syndrome is an even greater blessing.

Having Down syndrome does not define a person.

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.

There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.

Approximately 90% of pregnancies are terminated after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is made.

Most importantly, this is what I know about Down syndrome…

Having children with Down syndrome means we laugh a lot, move a little slower, always stop to smell the flowers, dance whenever we hear music and give lots of hugs.  It means that we face challenges.  It means that the magic of Disney World will never grow old and that Christmas morning will always be exciting.  It means that our typically developing daughters are extra special.  And it means that we, as parents, become advocates, so that one day, when we leave this earth, society will continue to accept, include and respect our children even when our voices can no longer be heard.