French parents pressured to abort Down's children, health activists complain
France, June 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - French parents are being pressured by the medical system to kill their Down syndrome children in the womb, resulting in a 96% abortion rate in such cases, according to activists.
Anne Evrard of the maternal health association Bien Naître ("Good Childbirthing") says that the high rate is linked to legislation passed in 2009 requiring all doctors to offer a prenatal test for Trisomy 21, the genetic mutation that causes Down. She complained that parents are often not being given adequate information about the testing procedures, or the decision that they will have to face if the result comes back positive.
A study of the French health system carried out in 2009 found that women often were not being informed about the screening procedures for Down syndrome, or the risks involved to their unborn child. Many women also had not considered the possibility of having to decide whether or not to abort their child in case of a positive result.
Although Evrard says that she agrees with offering the test, she adds that "this does not mean that doctors are giving good information to parents."
"A serious number of parents do not know the choice that they are going to be led to make if the test comes up positive," Evrard told the magazine Lyon Capitale in a recent interview. "In the end, this is always a choice of life or death for an unborn child!"
"Currently in France, 96% of parents who are carrying a Trisomic baby choose to interrupt the pregnancy. That's an extremely high percentage, without any doubt higher than other countries, which raises questions about the short time given for making the decision," she said.
"But refusing the test is not always seen as good, nor is the refusal of a diagnosis. Therefore, if parents are better informed, we believe that a greater number of them will refuse the test."
Although the rate of abortion for Down syndrome babies in France is high in comparison to some other Western countries, a similarly high rate of 84% was found in the United States in a 2008 study. In the United Kingdom, the percentage is 92%, and in Spain it is 95%.
In a recent interview with the Catholic newspaper La Croix and reported by the French bioethics website Genethique, Marie-Véronique du Pasquier spoke about her mistreatment by physicians following her decision not to abort her Down syndrome child, Benjamin.
"Why are the doctors afraid of Trisomy?" du Pasquier asked. "Why is it necessary to complain and struggle so that the rights of Benjamin will just be respected? Why do we have to justify ourselves, notably in the face of certain doctors, that Benjamin was born, and then, what we were thinking?"
"Our words in many places are not taken into account when it comes to Benjamin, as if a Trisomy baby doesn't count."
Despite all of her suffering, however, du Pasquier regards her child as a blessing.
"We have been enlarged interiorly," she told La Croix, adding that Benjamin has allowed her family to "discover other worlds."
She says she now feels compelled to speak out for the handicapped. "In our society, where handicapped persons are rarely permitted to be seen, what place is given to those who are different?" she asks.