Late Term Abortions & the “Defect” of Down Syndrome

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So in the third and final presidential debate of 2016, the subject of late term abortions came up and now I feel compelled to write another post on abortion.

Late Term Abortions – When Do We Mean?

First, I think we need to clarify the definition of what “late term” means. It’s pretty ridiculous to assume that women come in just before their due date (as Trump said) and abort on a whim. I don’t think women OR doctors do that. I read this article by an OB, Dr. Jennifer Gunter, clarifying questions people might have about late term abortions, which agrees. According to this article:

“It is a common anti-choice narrative that women come in at 39 weeks and have some kind of abortion for fun or out of boredom and that we doctors are only to happy to comply.”

While Gunter has some obvious and (I believe) unwarranted bias here, she points out that late term abortions are considered those that occur at 21 weeks or later and are only 1.3% of abortions.

Why Do Women Have Late Term Abortions?

Now that we know these are more often 2nd trimester abortions, we should answer the why. In the debate, Clinton talked about how families knew moms who had to choose between their lives and the babies. She didn’t list particulars but if she was referring to things like to radiation treatments after 21 weeks, that makes sense – the baby would not survive. (This is also a great reason for cancer patients to research alternative, less harmful therapies like those championed in “The Truth About Cancer.” No judgment on HOWEVER you decide to treat a deadly illness. I don’t know anyone who’s tried them but I would consider them for myself.)

However, those cases are rare. Gunter goes on to say that 80% of late term abortions are done because the baby has birth defects. I can understand with certain illnesses why it can be an appealing option. “This Is What It’s Really Like To Have a Late-Term Abortion” is a really compelling article about a baby who most likely would not have survived outside the womb. I also think it’s totally ok to agree or disagree with her choice in that very difficult situation…your opinion and beliefs are your own.

The “Defect” of Down Syndrome?

But then Gunter’s article goes on to give a range of what these birth defects include:

“This could range from Down syndrome to anomalies incompatible with life.”

That’s why I had to STOP what I was doing and write this.

My Unwanted Pregnancy

In 2008, I found myself accidentally pregnant. According to my former OB in New York, I shouldn’t get get pregnant past age 40 or risk my health. Of course, that was no guarantee of death and my condition is treatable. It was early and the doctors said they could give me an abortion for medical reasons, no problem, if I wanted. That would be for my health OR in case the baby had Down syndrome, since the chances were quite a bit greater than normal. (Naturally, we could have confirmed later on with a CVS or amnio.) My husband was worried for me on many levels and didn’t want me to keep the baby but it went against my beliefs.

That bothered me SO MUCH. Down syndrome is not, in my opinion, a good reason to terminate a baby. When I hear this, I’m simply surprised by the LACK of understanding of the medical community. Sad? Whispering after the birth? “Something wrong with the baby”?

Another Way to Think About Down Syndrome

Nope. Nothing wrong. Babies with Down syndrome are a little different. They may need more nurturing or not (I’m raising Miss Independent). Yes, you have to be diligent with certain medical issues as cardiac issues, like a hole in the heart or thyroid problems, can be more prevalent. (Adding to those more known issues, you SHOULD include allergies, MTHFR mutations, food sensitivities, etc.)

But  this is what actually made me write this post today:

And it’s true for my daughter. Amelia is just an amazing kid. She has this *STUNNING* ability to let crap roll off her back. She has taught me SO MUCH about getting over myself, or “it” or whatever, and move on to the next thing. She is strong, physically and mentally, and totally resilient in a way that impresses me.

That’s not recent, either. She’s always been that way! She has a beautiful heart, even if we have to monitor every few years.

Great Things About Having a Child With Down Syndrome Today

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Here’s the thing. If your baby has been prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome, I want to encourage you with this:

  • He or she may be the greatest gift you can possibly imagine.
  • Today, kids with Down syndrome can grow up to marry, work, go to college, go to vocational school, have careers, and more. Or they don’t…you know, kind of like every kid.
  • Health issues with Down syndrome are manageable. Yes, a heart defect is scary but this is one area where I really trust the medical profession personally. They have heart repair down, although it does of course come with risks, like all cardiac surgery. It’s also true your child might need surgery early on but heart defects are one of the most common among all babies.
  • Kids with Down syndrome really benefit from living a nontoxic life. All pediatricians might not confirm that but it’s been my experience that lots of our kids have issues with toxicity and allergies. If you are reading this blog, you may be interested in a living a nontoxic life or cleaning up your kid’s diet. Both have benefited my daughter greatly.
  • Today, there are SO many options that parents can use to help their children: a huge range of therapies including alternative medicine, holistic approaches and homeopathy, different levels of inclusion at school, respite care hosted by local community resources like churches, summer camps and extracurricular activities just for kids with Down syndrome or special needs, assistive technology and more. Don’t feel like your child is missing out.
  • Numerous programs exist for kids and adults with special needs of every level, from job programs to college programs to housing options. I’m not saying there won’t be serious future financial considerations but that could be true with any child.
  • Be prepared to fall completely in love with your little one. We adored Amelia so much we just HAD to have another baby!

What You Can Do

The thing we all need to do is spread the word that Down syndrome is nothing to fear and that our kids can overcome most anything if they put their minds to it…just like so many of us. I think the thing that changed me the most after raising Amelia is how much she was really like other kids but with a more easy-going nature and an inability to see other people’s deficits. She sees the best in others more than anyone I know. Sure, maybe academics is not her strong suit but so what? You’ll never meet a kid with a bigger heart or more concern for others. She’s the girl who sees that kid eating lunch along or an acquaintance who is sad and sits down to be with them and cheer them up. She’s even done that for me!

Finally, I won’t lie. It’s not easy raising a kid with a disability and that’s mainly due to OTHER people who have no experience with disability. (And also the paperwork. I do not love the paperwork!). Anyone who knows a person with Down syndrome…well, those have been the friendliest people to our family, just to let you know. There IS community and encouragement and love for our families and you need to know that..

I am honored and blessed to be Amelia’s mom, even when it’s hard, and then I just have to hold on to God.