October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time when the international Down syndrome community celebrates the many accomplishments and contributions of individuals with Down syndrome. The month is also a time to raise awareness about what life with Down syndrome is like. For many children and adults, Life with Down syndrome looks remarkably like anyone else’s Life. People with Down syndrome continue to destroy barriers and succeed in ways previously thought impossible. People with Down syndrome graduate from higher education, own businesses, and win recognition in their fields. Most importantly, they are sons, daughter, brothers, sisters, and friends.
Sadly, oftentimes when parents are given a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for their son or daughter, they are given little information about what the condition entails and are left with fear and doubt about the future. Down Syndrome Awareness Month is an opportunity to reach more future parents with the message that Life with Down syndrome is a gift full of possibility, beauty, and joy, like the life of any child. Meanwhile, many of the world’s wealthiest nations attempt to “eliminate” Down syndrome through discriminatory abortions that take the life of a child solely because that child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. In these unjust societies, the sight of a child with Down syndrome smiling is considered “inappropriate.”
In the face of such injustice and inhumanity, parents of children with Down syndrome need accurate information and resources more than ever. Several states have passed laws banning abortions on babies with Down syndrome. Texas has no such protections for vulnerable preborn babies diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome. While Texas law has protected preborn babies from abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation since the passage of the Pro-Life Omnibus Bill in 2013, ugly political deals left a deadly loophole. Babies who may have a disability, such as Down syndrome, are not protected and can be killed through abortion at any time during pregnancy, even after the point they undeniably feel the excruciating pain of the abortion procedure.
The discrimination in Texas law against babies with Down syndrome or another disability has remained despite the continued efforts of Pro-Life stalwarts to pass legislation that would protect all preborn babies. Notably, Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) proposed an amendment in the most recent legislative session that would have closed the loophole, protecting preborn babies with Down syndrome from discriminatory late-term abortions. As usual, Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), thwarted the passage of Schaefer’s life-saving amendment. Cook is the House leadership lackey who orchestrated the first deadly loophole that excluded disabled preborn babies from protections given to all other preborn babies with the Sonogram Law in 2011.
Since then, Byron Cook has remained an outspoken critic of any attempt to protect disabled preborn babies from discriminatory abortions. Cook went so far as to write a public letter urging his colleagues to oppose any effort to end the killing of disabled preborn babies. From his powerful position as chair of the House Committee on State Affairs, Cook continues to demand deadly discrimination in Texas law that threatens the lives of babies with Down syndrome. During Down syndrome awareness month, Texans can use the Pro-Life Scorecard to see if their legislators supported Cook’s anti-Life campaign or if they stood for Life in the Capitol.