In December, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law legislation prohibiting doctors from aborting a baby with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, much-needed legislation given the horrifying statistics.
In a study released in February 2012, "Prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome: a systematic review of termination rates (1995–2011)," researchers found that 67 percent of such cases resulted in death for the unborn among seven population-based studies in the United States, with a range of 61 percent to 93 percent. Among nine hospital-based studies, it was 85 percent, with a range of 60 percent to 90 percent.
The statistics are alarming, though the situation is worse elsewhere. A study in Europe, "Decision-making after the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality," put the rate at 92 percent but that was almost 20 years ago, in 1999. And last year, a CBS report indicated a rate near 100 percent in Iceland, where officials seemed proud that Down syndrome has been nearly "eradicated."
These bleak circumstances often confront expectant mothers and fathers, with doctors, nurses and medical personnel recommending abortion or "letting nature take its course" by withholding necessary medical procedures after birth.
Sadly, almost two-thirds of expectant mothers (according to the 2012 study) take the advice. Thankfully, one out of three doen't, accepting the challenge of raising a child with Down syndrome and fighting for the child's education and inclusion.
This issue of the St. Louis Review tells the story of Incarnate Word School in Chesterfield adopting inclusive education for the 2017-18 school year and welcoming three students with Down syndrome; Incarnate Word is among four regular parish schools in the archdiocese now educating students with severe special needs. This issue also details March for Life events in Washington, D.C., and locally.
These two things — inclusive education in our Catholic schools and the March for Life — are inextricably linked, offering hope in a society that tries to justify actions contrary to not only Catholic teaching, such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, but to our Declaration of Independence, which lists "life" among "unalienable rights" with which people are "endowed by their Creator."
Ohio has joined North Dakota in prohibiting an abortion after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, giving children with Down syndrome the chance to live. And inclusion programs at parish schools such Incarnate Word are teaching fellow students to love, honor and help classmates with special needs navigate life and learning. It's heart-warming to watch them interact in the classroom and socially. Parishes are family, and family members watch out for and take care of one another; youngsters — classmates and peers — know this instinctively.
Young people will fight for their vulnerable peers; they already have put a youthful face on the March for Life, and others are noticing.
In west St. Louis County on Jan. 19, drivers along Highways 109 and 100 overwhelmingly complied as middle-school students from St. Alban Roe School carried a sign asking them to "Honk for Life." Fourth- through seventh-graders from Most Sacred Heart School took the pro-life message to the streets of Eureka; the entire student body from Valle Catholic grade school and high school did likewise in Ste. Genevieve.
Numerous schools throughout the archdiocese marched as well, while cohorts traveled to Washington, D.C., for the annual pilgrimage. An estimated 3,000 people from St. Louis traveled to Washington, led by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry's Generation Life group with about 2,200 teens.
Teenagers and young adults comprise the aptly named Generation Life. None were born 45 years ago when the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision made abortion legal in the United States. An estimated 60 million babies have been killed since that decision.
The number is staggering, and it's sobering for the Generation Life age-group to realize their contemporaries never even had a chance to live in God's beautiful creation. They know instinctively that killing an unborn baby, whether with a prenatal diagnosis or without, is wrong, and they'll bring an end to the scourge started 45 years ago. It's only a matter of time.