Down Syndrome, Beating the Odds and Birth Equality

One of the more heart-warming stories of recent days has been the letter written by American sports journalist Paul Daugherty to his daughter on her wedding day. Jillian Daugherty and her husband, Ryan, both have Down Syndrome. They make a beautiful couple and I can easily understand her father’s pride. You can read the full story here: A Father’s Letter

Jillian Daugherty

In his letter, Paul said, “I don’t know what the odds are of a woman born with Down Syndrome marrying the love of her life. I only know you’ve beaten them.”

That quote caused me to reflect on a statistic I encountered recently – that 95% of unborn children in the US that are diagnosed with Down Syndrome never make it out of the womb alive. I am convinced that future generations will look back to the early 21st Century and wonder how we could ever have tolerated such a shocking human rights violation as selective abortion. Millions of children are denied ‘birth equality’ because they are deemed to be the wrong gender, the wrong race, or because they have an extra chromosome. That is wrong – utterly barbaric and morally wrong.

People with Down Syndrome have to ‘beat the odds’ in many areas of life. They are more likely than the rest of the population to be denied appropriate education, more likely to be sexually abused as children, are discriminated against in the area of immigration (countries that practice such discrimination include the UK, Canada and Australia), and are more likely to be unemployed.

It is past time for these inequalities to be addressed. And the most basic inequality of all, that of the right to born at all, should be the first to be addressed. Birth Equality is a human rights issue.

In Ireland, at present, it is illegal to abort an unborn child due to a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. At least one major political party has adopted it as part of their policy for the next election to see that protection removed. No doubt the abortion debate will intensify when the date for that election is announced. We should remember that Birth Equality is not an attempt to enforce Christian dogma on others, nor is it a culture-war. Birth Equality is about basic human rights. And Jillian Daugherty is a beautiful and inspirational example of why this issue is so important.

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