SOME obstetricians are calling for more extensive prenatal screening for Down syndrome. But the "test and terminate" approach marginalises existing parents of children with Down syndrome.
Many parents are asked, "Didn't you have the test?" Giving birth to a child with Down syndrome is seen as an act of carelessness.
Down Syndrome Victoria (DSV) has a neutral prenatal policy. They believe parents need relevant, up to date, accurate information in order to make this most difficult of decisions and are deeply concerned that parents don't always get it.
Many stories can be told — such as the one about the obstetrician who refused to continue to provide services to a couple once they decided against killing their child through abortion; or the ultrasonographer who delivered a diagnosis and then wanted to schedule the abortion for the same day.
There is research to suggest that women do not always understand the nature or intent of testing and simply accept referrals from their doctors. This makes a mockery of the notion of informed consent.
Data from the Birth Defects Register suggests that prenatal testing is on the decline in Victoria. According to a report on prenatal diagnostic testing in this state, the number of diagnostic tests performed each year has decreased significantly since 1998.
A report released recently in Britain found that more women than ever before are choosing to continue with pregnancy after a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
While a similar survey has not been conducted in Victoria, the number of babies born with Down syndrome each year has remained unchanged over the past decade — between 45 and 60 babies are born each year.
Like every other child born in Victoria, those babies deserve equality and respect. They have the potential to lead full and rewarding lives as contributing members of their families and the broader community. What holds them back is not their intellectual disability but the negative attitudes and limitations imposed upon them by others.
DSV believes the barriers that limit the opportunities of people with Down syndrome are constructions of society's making. As such, they can be dismantled.
We should be working to change the world, not eliminate people with Down syndrome from it.
The Age Newspaper