Researchers at Stanford University are working on a new prenatal screen for Down’s Syndrome that would be based on a maternal blood test rather than amniocentesis, taking the risk to the fetus out of the process. I fully support women having as much prenatal information as they can get. I fully support a woman’s right to decide whether or not to carry any pregnancy to term. So this new test is good news.
But I wish that good information about and services for people with Down’s Syndrome was growing as fast as technology to test for it prenatally. I worry not that “unborn children” will be aborted, but that fear about Down’s, leading to fewer Down’s births will in turn lead to less exposure to people with Down’s in society, leading to…less understanding about and more fear of Down’s.
The easier it becomes for typically abled people to avoid getting to know people with disabilities, the less understanding there will be of them, the less accommodation will be made for them and the smaller the range of human experience society will find acceptable. While it is every woman’s personal decision to raise a child with a known disability or not, I think more would probably choose to do it if we as a culture were not so filled with fear and loathing of anyone with physical or mental ability that falls outside an ever narrower range of “normal.”
I may be in the minority, but I believe people with Down’s Syndrome are part of a complex range of human variance and humankind would be poorer if no more people with Down’s Syndrome were ever born. Medical testing is helpful. But I hope that as a society we can expand our understanding of who is fully human to include those people with Down’s who end up in our midst anyway.
Image: Huffington Post