Genetic technology used to open door to new kind of racism
Homosexuality has a strong genetic component, reports the new scientist. In 2015 researchers announced that the ‘gay-gene’ was identified. Advocacy groups around the world worried homosexuality would be redefined as a biological abnormality that is unwanted. Once key genes are found, it will be possible to detect homosexuality before birth. Ultimately, this will increase homophobia. Some activists believe this could be used to persecute gay people and see in such research the “seeds of genocide”.
Considering the fact that Iceland proudly announced the government initiated eradication of people with Down syndrome, their fears are grounded. Unfortunately Iceland is not alone.
Authorities decide who can be “NIPT” in the bud
In 2011 NIPT was introduced into health care. NIPT can potentially analyze the entire genome of the unborn child, but countries are increasingly opting for a targeted approach. This means that commercial companies, health authorities and policymakers are targeting specific genetic conditions while prohibiting the prenatal selection of other groups.
Down syndrome is such a target. It is treated as a 'disease' that can be eradicated through screening and 'prevented' by selective abortion. The Netherlands has singled out Down syndrome as the primary target of it's National screening program. The NIPT is offered, unsolicited, to all pregnant women.
Other countries, like the UK, consider similar policies. In a recent report on the ethics of NIPT the British Nuffield council bends over backwards to try to justify a National dna-screening program for Down syndrome while excluding various other disabilities and gender.
Like the UK, many countries condemn and ban the selective abortion of girls. Since the 1990s, 117 million women are believed to be "missing" in Asia and Eastern Europe – the result of son preference and gender-biased sex selection, the most violent form of discrimination. The United Nations, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and Unicef agree that sex-selection reflects the persistent low status of women and is “an extreme form and manifestation of gender discrimination and inequality against women”. The rise in violence against women is rooted in their prenatal selection.
If there is International consensus that sex-selection is a threat to women's lives and human rights, then WHY is the deliberate elimination of Down syndrome celebrated as 'freedom' and 'a right'?
People with Down syndrome, like women and gays, are naturally occurring varieties in our human species that have always existed in every society on earth. There are people out there that don't want a child with Down syndrome. They believe they have valid arguments why they should abort such a child. These are basically the same arguments people use for discriminating other groups: prejudices and the fear for (financial) suffering.
Yes, families with Down syndrome may -on average- need more support and finances. But so do other families for a variety of reasons ranging from social problems to living in a culture that values men over women. Reality is that most families do not suffer from Down syndrome in itself but from inequality and discrimination.
Full and equal members of society
The period that persons with disabilities are treated as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection is behind us. The Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) sets down their human rights as full and equal members of society. Rather than demanding support for women and equal human rights for our children -no matter what their differences may be- we are demanding the 'right' to kill them before they are born. Based on limited genetic information and slickly marketed propaganda. 'Women's rights' and 'freedom of choice' have been hijacked to serve commercial and political interests.
Having a disability doesn't make you less human. The point is, we are each free to judge a life with a disability, but we live in a world where governments have to protect the human rights of all. No one in our human diversity should be singled out as a 'choice' and be persecuted on the basis of their 'difference'.
Renate Lindeman is a mother of two daughters with Down syndrome. She is also a spokesperson for Downpride and the StopDiscriminatingDown Campaign and a team member of Saving Downsyndrome. These organisations started a legal procedure against eradication of Down syndrome for which sponsors are needed. If you are interested in associating the name of your organization to this landmark case or would like more information, please contact email@example.com