Human Interest

Teen mother refused to abort son with Down syndrome despite intense pressure

Down syndrome, northern ireland

In a book collecting stories from family members of children with Down syndrome, Danielle Urie tells the story of her son, Steven. In 2010, Urie was 16 and pregnant. She delighted in seeing her child on the ultrasound screen, but after the third scan, she received some unsettling news from her doctors:

The first two scans were amazing – seeing my precious baby on that dark screen, to say I was buzzing about life would have been an understatement. At the 16 week scan, the nurse told me I had to come back the next day to the fetal medicine unit.

Doctors told her her baby had a condition called tricuspid atresia and would need major surgery when born. Urie said, “I was in deep shock… I really didn’t know how to feel.” But doctors encouraged her to have an abortion. Urie refused:

He was my baby and I was going to do whatever was needed. Doctors advised me to get a termination. I couldn’t do it. They gave me half an hour to decide – I didn’t need half an hour. I told them there and then there was no possibility I was going to abort. They told me Steven wouldn’t be able to have a good quality of life.

Not only did doctors pressure Urie to abort, but they also gave her only half an hour to make up her mind. They pressured her to make a quick decision in a moment of emotional trauma. Many women, still in the middle of processing the news that their child would have a severe health problem, would have given in the doctors’ pressure and aborted. Urie did not.

Although problems with the baby’s heart were found not to be as serious as originally believed, at 37 weeks, doctors told her her son had Down syndrome:

The doctors came in with a very worried look, they said, “We’re sorry but your baby will possibly be born with Down syndrome.” I was worried, I was scared, I was sad – all because of the negative way I was addressed by the doctors.

The doctors presented Down syndrome as a tragedy, leading Urie to feel frightened and uncertain about the future. But nine years later, Urie was very happy she chose life. She said:

[I]n August 2011 I gave birth to not only my best friend but the most amazing, beautiful, kindhearted little boy in the whole world. They said, “We’re sorry, but Steven has Down syndrome.” I looked down and thought, “Okay, son, let’s do this – no matter what, we will get there together.”

Steven was also born with Hirschsprung’s disease in the bowel. He has a permanent ileostomy bag. He has had 18 operations including heart surgery.

READ: Mom pressured to abort baby with Down syndrome: My daughter was ‘completely dehumanized’

Urie’s entire family fell in love with little Steven. In fact, when her sister became pregnant, she hoped for a child with Down syndrome too:

Nine years later and my sister Chelsea is pregnant. We were at the midwife the other day and Chelsea wanted the screening test and she wanted it to come back high risk! The midwife said, “Oh, that’s great news, you’re one in 1500,” and we both said, “Aw, that’s crap!” The midwife looked confused. I told her that I actually have a son who has Down syndrome – she soon changed her tune!

Despite what doctors said, Steven’s life is worth living, and he is very loved. Doctors’ insistence on abortion and their negative portrayal of life with a disability show the ableism rampant in modern medicine which threatens the lives of the disabled, through assisted suicide and abortion.

Source: Nicola Enoch #NobodyToldMe: The Truth about Down Syndrome (tantamount, 2020) 14

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