A woman has spoken out after being denied an allegedly medically necessary abortion, saying that her baby’s prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and other disabilities should have qualified her.
Kelly Shannon told ABC News that she and her husband had actively been trying for a second child when they got pregnant. Just before Christmas, they learned there was an 87% chance the baby, a girl, had Down syndrome.
“I spent the next few weeks trying not to get too attached, but it’s hard not to love a baby you have prayed for,” she said.
Further testing found other potential birth defects to be present: swelling in the baby’s head and body wall, a heart defect, and a tumor on the baby’s stomach. On their own, none of these conditions would cause death, but doctors told Shannon the baby was not likely to survive. “The likelihood of the baby surviving was negligible,” Shannon said. “Even if she did survive to term, it would be unlikely she’d survived through labor. And if she did survive through labor, then we’d be looking at multiple corrective surgeries immediately after birth.”
It is unfortunately very common for doctors to exaggerate risks of pregnancy with a child with Down syndrome and place pressure on women to have an abortion after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis. One survey found that many doctors admit to giving women inaccurate, outdated information specifically so they would have an abortion. A Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network campaign heard from numerous parents who stated that doctors called their children an “it,” said they would be vegetables, and that they would never walk or talk.
Shannon, who lives in Alabama, filed a request for an abortion, but it was denied. Her baby girl did not develop hydrops fetalis (a large amount of fluid and swelling in the body), which should have been seen as good news; instead, Shannon was devastated that she wasn’t able to get an abortion, citing a “quality-of-life” argument.
“The committee felt that since each condition was by itself potentially survivable — not that they would lead to any kind of quality of life, just that they could potentially lead to life — that under Alabama law they did not think that my case met the criteria for termination,” she said. She and her husband instead drove to Virginia and paid nearly $3,000 to have their daughter killed.
The assumed misguided perception of a potentially “poor” quality of life should never deprive someone of his or her right to live. All children, no matter how severe the disability, have the right to life, and people with disabilities do not deserve to have their existence devalued. People with Down syndrome are all different and all worthy, and they are athletes, college graduates, spouses, siblings, parents, models, actors, and more.
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