Sunday, July 15, 2007

Is forcing a test for Down syndrome a form of genocide?

If every women who gets pregnant must have a test to determine if the fetus has Down syndrome and the stigma attached to Down syndrome is so extreme that 90% of women who know they are carrying a child with Down syndrome abort - isn't making it mandatory that all women get this test a form of genocide? I think so.

Children are not cookies made of dough that we get to shape and decorate anyway we like. We are given a gift to raise. And too many people just don't understand what a tremendously good gift a child with Down syndrome is until they've gotten over the shock and actually come to experience it.

I was listening to this Harvard professor discuss happiness on NPR. And one of the things that struck me was that he has found that there is a genetic predisposition to happiness. There is a part of the brain that exhibits a change when a person is happy. I was wondering if they could find that people with Down syndrome have a predisposition to greater happiness because their brains are different as there is substance to the idea that people with Down syndrome are happier people.

I won't say my son is never unhappy, or not even at one time been clinically depressed - but overall he is an exceedingly happy person and when crisis strikes he bounces back very quickly. And from observing kids with Down syndrome these past 23 years plus - I'd say it is a pretty universal way of being. Now how lucky is that?

So given the real struggles we face as a family including a member with Down syndrome, wouldn't I really rather not have had to deal with Down syndrome if given a choice? An uneducated choice yes. But the person Teddy is - is all wrapped up in Down syndrome. You can't separate out those parts of him - take them away- and leave behind the person who is Teddy. I think he has unique gifts to give to the world that we would no longer have. He would be just a shell of the person he is today.

So why wouldn't that be OK? He'd probably be just as extraordinary, just in different ways. But I think we need what he gives. He makes sure people remember what is important. His most extraordinary gift seems to be to help people feel good about themselves. It was a gift I saw when he was just a toddler, and became most apparent other parents requested their kids be in the same class as Teddy in elementary school. I'll always remember the mom who said that her daughter felt so much better about herself because of seeing how Teddy was happy being who he was.

Accepting everything life throws at you and still continuing on with a smile (after a few minutes of anger/sorrow) is something I wish I could do better. Teddy forgives more quickly and completely than I can ever imagine doing. I simmer and rage and rarely completely forget. He just has a momentary explosion and carries on.

Teddy is unique. He is not just about Down syndrome. But there are certain characteristics - positive characteristic that are so prevalent among people with Down syndrome that they cannot be denied - or can they - thru genocide?

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