Dr. Brian Skotko, a Down syndrome specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston, cites a study in the article, New earlier blood test for Down syndrome pregnancies may bring women comfort — or conflict, that “the number of Down syndrome births in the nation dropped 11 percent between 1989 and 2006, a time when it would otherwise be expected to rise 42 percent.”
That statistic has been bothering me all week, so I tried to do the math. Since I don’t know what the actual numbers are, I tried to figure out the ratio. If, for example, in 1989 we had 100 Down syndrome births, then we expected that in 2006 we would have 142 Down syndrome births (42% increase). Instead, we had 89 Down syndrome births (11% decrease).
89(actual)/142 (predicted) = 62.7%
Only 62.7% of the children with Down syndrome that we anticipated would be born in 2006 were actually born.
I looked up some numbers on the Jewish population worldwide before and after the Holocaust:
1939: 17 million
1945: 11 million
The ratio of 11 million (actual living)/17 million (expected but for the Holocaust): 64.7%
Of course, the ratio in Europe was even worse – only about 1/3 of Jews living in Europe survived the Holocaust.
If the systematic identification and destruction of 2/3rds of Jewish people in Europe was called genocide, what do we call an abortion rate of more than 90% of children with Down syndrome for those women who currently are tested? How much lower will the ratio of Down syndrome births go as new, more accurate and less expensive tests for Down syndrome become available?
I want to be clear – I do not believe that tests are the problem. Though knowledge of a disability in an unborn child is certainly a hard thing, it is not a bad thing.
But we know our culture has a bias against those who are different, and particularly against those who have developmental disabilities. We also know, and Dr. Skotko referenced it in the article above, that doctors are not trained in the full reality of disability and usually bring in their own biases. Abortion is an assumed best option for many, many health professionals at a very vulnerable time in a mother’s and a father’s life.
So, let us tell and re-tell our stories of God’s goodness and provision in our lives. Whether a person living with a disability or the parent of a child with a disability, we have a particular kind of testimony of God’s faithfulness and goodness.
And then let us pray that God will use our stories to change everyone – presidents and Supreme Court justices and members of Congress and doctors and pastors and genetic counselors and family members and mothers and fathers and everyone else. We know God can do it!
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1