Opinion | Down syndrome isn’t a death sentence

All life is worth living and that extends to the debate over reproductive rights.


Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

Breaking: President Trump is capable of spreading something other than hate.  He gave a whole speech condemning abortion for people with Down syndrome.

“During Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we are reminded that we must never waver in our efforts to support these individuals so that they can enrich the soul of our Nation with their joy and love,” Trump said.

As someone with a genetic disease, it means a lot that the president — despite being hospitalized for COVID-19 and being busy running an election campaign and the country during a pandemic — does not overlook a month which celebrates those with genetic diseases.

It also means the world to me that Trump realizes we have worth and deserve to live. Society needs to hear this message, regardless of who it comes from.

Chris Kaposy, a pro-choice bioethicist, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about his own experience with his child. While at first, there was grief after a Down syndrome diagnosis, they have accepted his son as a member of the family. He also wrote that the birth of his son was a ‘joyous occasion.” He describes him as affectionate and having a “crooked smile.” Kaposy cites that an estimated 67 percent of babies with Down syndrome are aborted in the U.S.

This shows intellectual disabilities and physical health problems do not prevent someone from having value, humanity, and gifts needed to make the world a better place. I understand how some parents might see a Down syndrome diagnosis as bad news.

Over time though, they won’t see their child as a “burden” or just a kid with a genetic disease. They will see him or her as their child who they love unconditionally and could not imagine life without. The parents will see the ability behind the disability. They will realize an extra X chromosome does not prevent the child from making people laugh and smile. It won’t prevent the child from realizing when someone needs a hug.

The National Down Syndrome Congress, the National Down Syndrome Society, and Global Down Syndrome Foundation conducted a survey to see how many people with Down syndrome are employed. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were employed full-time.

Many people with Down syndrome do become high-functioning members of society by going to college, working, and living independently.  College students with Down syndrome have high levels of empathy and compassion, visual short-term memory, and adapt well to technology.

Hearing Trump’s message can inspire people to realize the worth of people with Down syndrome comes from their strengths, which are needed.

People who can’t work because of Down syndrome are still human beings. Realizing this begins with parents giving their unborn baby a chance at life. Trump’s speech can inspire them to do so.

What if instead of automatically telling parents they have the option of abortion after a Down syndrome diagnosis, obstetricians would say what Trump said? That could decrease the percent of parents who decide to abort because of Down syndrome.

While Down syndrome does present challenges, it does not obstruct making the most out of ordinary life experiences.

We’re all people worthy of kindness and friendship. Life is full of adventures and opportunities to make a positive difference in others’ lives, for anyone given a chance to be born.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.