October has been designated as “World Down Syndrome Awareness Month,” a month which the National Down Syndrome society says is a time to “celebrate people with Down syndrome and make people aware of our abilities and accomplishments. It’s not about celebrating disabilities, it’s about celebrating abilities.”
On October 1, 2017, President Donald Trump released a statement regarding this special month, stating that people with Down syndrome make “significant contributions… to their communities, and to our Nation.” He went on to speak highly of not only those with Down syndrome, but of the supportive community surrounding these individuals:
We also salute the family members, caregivers, medical professionals, and advocates who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that these extraordinary people enjoy lives filled with love and increasing opportunity. As a result of these remarkable efforts, people with Down syndrome are living longer, more enriching lives than ever before.
President Trump also noted the “inherent dignity of all children and adults with Down syndrome,” along with a desire to “further empower those with Down syndrome to pursue the American Dream of independence, pride in work, and full participation in civil society” thanks to “sustained advancements in education, research, and advocacy.” He added:
The approximately 250,000 Americans with Down syndrome truly embody the great spirit of our Nation. They inspire joy, kindness, and wonder in our families, our workplaces, and our communities. We will always endeavor to make sure that their precious gifts are never maligned or taken for granted.
Of note was Trump’s stated intention to “increase public awareness regarding the true nature of this condition, and to dispel the stubborn myths about the degree to which it is disabling.”
Many parents of children with Down syndrome have expressed that upon receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Ds, they were given worst-case scenarios and were pressured to abort their babies. Sadly, these “stubborn myths” about the supposedly limited lives of those with Down syndrome persist, even among the medical community. President Trump decried this kind of discrimination in his statement:
Sadly, there remain too many people – both in the United States and throughout the world – that still see Down syndrome as an excuse to ignore or discard human life. This sentiment is and will always be tragically misguided. We must always be vigilant in defending and promoting the unique and special gifts of all citizens in need. We should not tolerate any discrimination against them, as all people have inherent dignity.
In Iceland, approximately 100 percent of babies diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome are aborted. In the United States, a 2012 study found that approximately 67 percent of all prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses resulted in abortions. Australia is moving in the direction of prenatal testing in an effort to “eliminate” Down syndrome. And in the Netherlands, mothers are now being told that they have a “moral duty” to abort children diagnosed with Down syndrome. This kind of ableist discrimination is happening worldwide. It views those who are differently-abled as if they have no ability to make contributions to society — as if they are mere burdens. This discrimination leads to gruesome deaths:
Eugenics — the “weeding out” of those deemed “unfit,” for various reasons — wasn’t just popular in Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s generation. It is still just as pervasive, and just as deadly today. As President Trump noted, this philosophy of “discard[ing] human life” because of a disability is, indeed, “tragically misguided.”