Last Friday’s Telegraph had a small and seemingly innocuous news item, entitled “New Down’s syndrome blood test to go on trial”. I read it with anticipatory dread. It seems that this new screening test “will identify with 99% certainty whether [a patient’s] unborn child will have Down’s”. The item expanded on the supposedly good news: “Experts conducting the ongoing study said that, if offered through the NHS, the method could spare tens of thousands of women the need for one or two invasive tests, chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis, which cause almost 300 miscarriages each year.” Professor Kypros Nicolaides, who led the study, said, “With the current method you get any number: one in two [chance of the baby having Down’s], one in 10, 50, or 500. With the new test you get a result which is either more than 99% chance, or a less than one in 10,000 chance. It is a very clear distinction.”
My anticipatory dread was because I realised (although the article does not spell it out – perhaps because it is so obvious?) that there is only one reason for this new test: to refine the method of searching out and aborting babies discovered to have Down’s syndrome. As some readers of my blogs will know, my youngest daughter, now aged 22, has Down’s and whenever I read these news items my instinct is to run and put my arms round her, to shield her from the blows that society wants to inflict on this innocent and lovely girl and others like her.
Everything about the news item is chilling: the word “experts”; the fact that 300 healthy babies are miscarried each year at present as the necessary price of detecting babies with Down’s; and the fact that a medical professor is quoted – a man at the pinnacle of his profession, of which the Hippocratic Oath warns at first “to do no harm”. I think of another famous scientist, the late Professor Jerome Lejeune, who first discovered the cause of Down’s syndrome, and who spent his life fighting to protect his patients from those who would misuse and abuse his discovery.
When one writes on this subject someone usually posts a comment to the effect, “How dare you want to force women to give birth to handicapped babies? Who are you to tell them to cope in such a situation?” The only answer I can think of is a personal one: if women only knew that accepting these babies into their lives rather than rejecting them would not be the tragedy and disaster the media and the medical professionals have brainwashed them to believe, they would never go ahead with the abortion. Indeed, if they knew what love and fulfilment they might experience from the care and company of a child with Down’s, they would want to join a pro-life organisation to help other women at a very vulnerable time in their lives, fearful of the future and swayed by the wrong advice, to see the good that would flow from choosing not to abort.
So I do not want to sound in any way censorious or judgmental about such a grave consideration. I simply feel sad that so many women deprive themselves of the love that a child with Down’s would bring them; and now, with the advent of this new test, they will be further persuaded to submit to it and have even less opportunity to experience “Welcome to Holland” (an excellent article about choosing to accept handicap rather than banish it.).
As I write this, the pro-life organisation, the Good Counsel Network (GCN), is seeking to raise urgently needed funds of their work at their annual Wandsworth to Wapping Sponsored Walk, which will take place on Saturday 20th July, starting with Mass at 10 and finishing at approximately 4 pm with drinks and refreshments. The GCN offers pregnant women who are thinking of abortion all the emotional, practical and moral support they require to have the confidence to continue with their pregnancy. They are always short of money. There are more details on their website: Goodcounselnetwork.com