Your chest tightens and your throat constricts. The low buzz builds into a sharp ringing in your ears and drowns out your words. But you know you said it aloud because the doctor nods. You know you said it aloud, but you don’t feel any better.
“Down syndrome,” you re-read the neat black words.
According to Prenatal Screening Ontario, “of every 100 pregnancies with Down syndrome, about 80-85 will be detected (80-85%)” within the first trimester screening. The accuracy rate is impressive and reliable, and reflected in a review published in the medial journal Prenatal Diagnosis which reports that 67-85% of women choose to terminate their pregnancies upon learning that their baby has Down syndrome.
Every 100 pregnancies with Down syndrome, about 80-85 will be detected (80-85%)” within the first trimester screening
Regardless of women’s rights, personality, morality and the minefield that is familial and social conviction, a decision is to be made. And like all decisions, to be on one side is to alienate oneself against the other – to become a lightning rod for vicious attacks of character and value.
While statistics run high to abortion among women carrying babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, it is ultimately irrelevant to individual decisions. And ultimately, no matter what the outcome, it is highly stigmatized in the public eye.
Abort a Baby with Down Syndrome?
For women who choose to abort a baby with Down syndrome, mental, emotional and physical distress are the least of their worries. Outside of the clinic, their decision is questioned, condemned and even ridiculed, particularly if they have expressed strong desire to carry the child to full term. Despite concrete reasoning on their behalf – ranging from possible health complications, to lack of resources and financial difficulties – it is never good enough to justify their right to a personal resolution.
While statistics run high to abortion among women carrying babies diagnosed with Down syndrome
Perhaps the most damning perception is the popular belief that those who choose to abort a baby with Down syndrome are simply undeserving of children. Labelled as lazy, heartless and reckless, women who chose abortion based on prenatal screening undergo enormous social antagonism. It is as if the notion of motherhood is tied exclusively to the physical birthing and nurturing of a child, not the difficulties of discerning the best action for the child given the circumstances that they are in with the knowledge that they have. Those who choose to abort a baby with Down syndrome are still mothers – they are simply mothers that understood one of the true definitions of motherhood.
Those who choose to abort a baby with Down syndrome are still mothers
Here, it’s important to distinguish that motherhood is defined differently from woman to woman – in fact, it’s highly personal and nuanced. Abortion based on prenatal screening might be unthinkable to some individuals and that is an equally conscious and valid decision. Such a choice does not “burden society” or cause
“unneeded stress” as per the common thought. The so called “unfortunate consequences” are not only a public perception, but wholly wrong in view of the rich and rewarding lives children with Down syndrome can lead.
Advocating for Special Needs Child
What’s more? Aside from constantly advocating for their special needs child in order to guarantee equal treatment and opportunities, women who choose not to abort a baby with Down syndrome are subtly encouraged to abstain from having future children. Choosing to have a child with Down syndrome is akin to confirming a diagnosis of an infectious sexually transmitted disease – abstinence is highly recommended. In the end, the carefully thought out decision to not abort a baby with Down syndrome is regarded as passive acceptance of fate and genetic complications, not an active role to do what’s best by their child based on the knowledge and circumstances that they have.
Regardless of political, religious and social ideals, advanced prenatal screening is not a moral test to be passed or failed. Women who choose to abort a baby with Down syndrome have the same justified reasoning as women who choose not to abort. It is not black and white, or even shades of grey – the choice to abort a baby with Down syndrome is a multicolored and multifaceted decision that is unique to every woman.
Regardless of political, religious and social ideals, advanced prenatal screening is not a moral test to be passed or failed
In this modern age, either choice should validated and supported by their respective and opposing communities. Despite the acute discrimination and prejudice against women faced with the decision to abort, the reality is that there is no better time to be faced with such a decision like the current time. Liberal in thought and with incredible advances in family planning technology, those who choose abortion are guided with professional expertise and care. Likewise, for children born with Down syndrome, mainstream education has made the inclusion and acceptance of children with special needs not just a promise, but a standard.
It is not black and white, or even shades of grey – the choice to abort a baby with Down syndrome is a multicolored and multifaceted decision that is unique to every woman.
Above all, faced with such a complex and socially stigmatized decision, it is imperative that all women are aware of the resources available to them on either side of the choice. Whether it is psychological counselling or financial assistance , they have the right to secure what is best for them, their child and their family. While it might never be an easy decision, it needs to be one that is supported wholeheartedly by all.
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