George Will is one of my favorite columnists. He’s a smart conservative who stood against the war in Iraq when most on the right were beating the neoconservative drum. But he’s also a great father. He’s a father of a 40-year-old Down syndrome male.
His name is Jon Will. His birthday was last week. George wrote him a heartfelt column for the occasion. In it, Will writes about the gift of life.
He remembers Jon’s birth and the option to leave him at the hospital because of Down syndrome’s neglect from society. As George writes, “a doctor told Jon’s parents that the first question for them was whether they intended to take Jon home from the hospital” (http://goo.gl/R3Cvp). Jon’s parents were speechless. Of course, they wanted to take their baby home, who wouldn’t?
The fact of the matter is that many Down syndrome babies are aborted. According to Politifact, Rick Santorum’s claim that “90 percent of Down syndrome children in America are aborted” is “half true” (http://goo.gl/cPZto). There are numerous studies that Politifact cites that show that women who perform prenatal testing to detect Down syndrome usually abort their babies.
This doesn’t sit well with many conservatives. This shouldn’t sit well with anyone. Ideology shouldn’t matter. Facts like these should offend all ideologies.
For example, Will states that people with Down syndrome were still called Mongoloids in 1972 — a highly offensive term used to describe people with Down syndrome (if you look it up, it refers to people who resemble Mongols with “yellowish complexion, straight black hair, slanting eyes, short nose, and scanty facial hair” (http://goo.gl/HWELS).
It was assumed that the white race was superior to the Asian. The term was used by Langdon Down in 1959 to generalize people with Down syndrome as inferior to the majority of the population (http://goo.gl/t21FI).
However, these are not inferior people. Life should be embraced and not quote-on-quote, “perfected.” People today may not use the term “Mongoloid” but they surely practice it. Why do people abort babies with Down syndrome more than normal?
What’s the problem with being different from the general population? Why do we have to subscribe to a homogenous standard in the way we look? These are people too. As Will writes, “Now [Down syndrome people] are called American citizens, about 400,000 of them, and their life expectancy is now 60. Much has improved” (http://goo.gl/vGQwq).
Sadly, people care about their own self-interests. Granted, a Down syndrome baby requires a whole lot more attention than a baby that doesn’t have that extra 21st chromosome. But why is it that people always put themselves first and others last? Yes, I am saying that parents who abort Down syndrome babies are putting their own self-interests first. They don’t want to deal with that “abnormal” child. This is not meant to be offensive. It’s just a fact. As it was stated before, most Down syndrome babies don’t make it through birth.
The good news is that a vast majority of the general public supports initiatives to help people like Jon. There was a poll conducted by Global Down Syndrome Foundation, which showed that 86 percent of the public “strongly agree” that people with Down syndrome deserve “fundamental human and civil rights” (http://goo.gl/M8EW0).
If we truly believe in human and civil rights, let’s put it to practice. Let’s embrace people like Jon and not neglect them or abort them for that matter. As George Will says, “Down syndrome did not alter the trajectory of his life; Jon was Jon from conception on” (http://goo.gl/dFpmd).
Life is a wonderful gift. Let’s treat it as such.