Ollie and Cameron are twin brothers who have Down syndrome. Their mom, Elaine, manages a Facebook page dedicated to her boys and increasing awareness of what life with Down syndrome is actually like. The toddler boys are already semi-famous for their irresistible dance routines, which have garnered millions of views. Check out one of their adorable performances here.
On Friday, Elaine took to Facebook to share significant news with Ollie and Cameron’s followers. The NHS, the UK’s publicly-funded health system, is expected to begin covering noninvasive screenings for certain chromosomal abnormalities, including Down syndrome. The in-depth screening would be offered if a blood test screening earlier in the pregnancy indicated the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities (conditions like Down syndrome cannot be definitively diagnosed with early blood screenings or ultrasounds).
Elaine says this decision is, in theory, a good thing. Prenatal screening, she says, “allows parents the chance to see if their child has a trisomy condition (for example to be prepared) without possibly endangering the safety of baby.” The endangerment she refers to comes from alternative, invasive testing which poses a significant risk of miscarriage. However, Elaine points to the UK’s alarming termination rate endangering babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. Elaine cited an outdated statistic purporting that around 90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero were aborted. While this number was based on faulty data, the actual figure of around 53% is nearly as alarming. (America’s numbers are nearly as heartbreaking, with researchers estimating that at least 30% of individuals with Down syndrome have been ravaged by the choice of elective abortion.)
Elaine continues: “My worry is this… so many people have shared their experiences with me, detailing the loaded, biased negativity regarding how they were told the news their child had DS, with many being offered a termination in the first sentence.” While Elaine characterizes herself as not being Pro-Life, she believes that Britain’s shocking incidence of wiping out the Down syndrome population through abortion may be a direct result of the biased counseling parents receive from medical professionals. Compounding the issue, parents are being swayed to elect abortion before even having the opportunity to process the news that their child has a trisomy condition.
“Parents often aren't told that they don't have to make an instant decision and instead feel pressured to have their minds made up within a matter of days,” Elaine explains, continuing: “it may shock you to know that a baby with DS (or any disability) can be terminated at any point until the baby's due date. Time can be taken to speak to parents, do some reading, speak to family…”
Indeed, British media have a decidedly negative approach to reporting on Down syndrome. A Daily Mail story on the pending NHS decision, for example, describes pregnant women as “at risk” of having a child with Down syndrome; “the negative bias has hit the ground running,” says Elaine. “DS simply isn’t debilitating.” And raising twin boys with Down syndrome, Elaine would know! Below are a handful of other stories proving that Down syndrome is anything but debilitating.