In the New York Times article, A Father’s Search for a Drug for Down Syndrome, Dr. Costa, the father of a young woman with Down syndrome and a cutting-edge researcher on treatment possibilities, talks about his fears for people with Down syndrome and for his research (emphases in bold are mine):
But the effects of that revolution on Down research may yet be cut short. A competing set of scientists are on the cusp of achieving an entirely different kind of medical response to Down syndrome: rather than treat it, they promise to prevent it. They have developed noninvasive, prenatal blood tests which would allow for routine testing for Down syndrome in the first trimester of a pregnancy, raising the specter that many more parents would terminate an affected pregnancy. Some predict that one of the new tests could be available to the public within the year.
Costa, like others working on drug treatments, fears that the imminent approval of those tests might undercut support for treatment research, and even raises the possibility that children like Tyche will be among the last of a generation to be born with Down syndrome.
“It’s like we’re in a race against the people who are promoting those early screening methods,” Costa, who is 48, told me. “These tests are going to be quite accessible. At that point, one would expect a precipitous drop in the rate of birth of children with Down syndrome. If we’re not quick enough to offer alternatives, this field might collapse.”
Dr. Costa should not have to live with that fear! Knowledge about a child with Down syndrome in the womb is not the problem; our response to information most certainly is. But a documented 90% rate of abortion when unborn children are found to have Down syndrome is good reason for Dr. Costa to fear.
Even more chilling, he believes that funding for research into treatment options for Down syndrome is limited because new prenatal diagnostic options will soon be available:
But Costa points to a falloff in the financing of Down-syndrome research since the prenatal tests have been in development. Although it’s difficult to compare the numbers, money from the National Institutes of Health dropped to $16 million in 2007 from $23 million in 2003, before creeping back up to $22 million in 2011. That’s far less than the $68 million slated for cystic fibrosis, which affects an estimated 30,000 people in the United States, at most one-tenth of the 300,000 to 400,000 people who have Down.
“The geneticists expect Down syndrome to disappear,” Costa says, “so why fund treatments?”
I don’t know if his assertion is correct or not. It is possible that this area of research isn’t that highly regarded, or that other areas of research are considered of higher priority. There are always multiple reasons for why certain things are funded and others are not.
But I fear he could be right. After all, why fund research if eventually there aren’t any more people living with Down syndrome?
God’s church, however, can stand against this slaughter and denigration of people with Down syndrome. Just Tuesday I heard a dad announce that his baby with Down syndrome is expected in three weeks. It was the strong pro-life stand of his church that gave him the conviction that he should and would welcome this baby into his family.
May every church and all of God’s people rise and do the same!