There are many ways to describe my teen-age niece, Anna. She is a cell phone carrying, iPod wearing, High School Musical -crazed girl who loves going to the movies. In her more serious moments she’s a hard-working student who speaks two languages, likes photography and serves as an altar server at her parish. To those who first meet Anna, she is described as a person with Down Syndrome. Her sister describes her as the only person she knows who does not know the meaning of jealousy and who is an experience of pure love.
Unbelievably, 9 out of 10 ten times women and men make the choice to abort a life that could one day, look a lot like Anna’s. In fact, the conversation with the doctor when my sister received the diagnosis of Downs went something like this:
The doctor: “The test results have a strong indication that the child will be born with Down Syndrome, when would you like to schedule an appointment to terminate the pregnancy.”
My sister: “There will be no termination of the pregnancy.”
The doctor: “I don’t think you understand, the test indicates that there is a high probability that the child will be mentally retarded.”
My sister: “I understand that, but I would like to know what we can do to make sure the baby is born safe and healthy.”
The doctor: “I don’t’ think you understand fully what I am saying; you need to go home and think this over.”
My sister went on to say that the doctor also shared that he had never had parents, when faced with this diagnosis, choose to keep the baby. At the time she shared this it did not surprise me because my sister lives in Stockholm, Sweden and Sweden is one of the most secular countries with very liberal abortion laws. What does surprise me are the statistics here in the U.S. Not only because of the high rate of active practice of religion as compared to other countries, but also because in the course of our daily lives we see adults with Down Syndrome working in retail stores, attending classes at vocational schools and colleges, serving as liturgical ministers and active in lots of community activities. For example meet Maddie. www.adw.org and click on news and events.
Sunday was World Down Syndrome Day and there was an ad in the Washington Post that seeks to educate people that “Babies with Down’s grow and develop just like other children…perhaps more slowly, but just as surely.”
My sister often shares that what was most critical for her and my brother-in-law was the support they received from family and friends as they worried through so much of the unknown during the pregnancy and the support they receive from other families raising special needs kids.
The Archdiocese through its Department for Ministry to People with Special Needs and its Department for Life Issues is working in a number of different areas to educate, provide support, and build environments to help children and families thrive. On Saturday, March 27 there will be a workshop at Blessed Sacrament parish to explore all this and more. If you are interested click here