Over the last six years there has been a number of pro-life bills introduced in Parliament in Britain. None has passed the committee stage because anti-life politicians have manipulated the system, but all were strongly supported both in Parliament itself and by the public at large. Opinion polls have shown quite clearly that most people are against abortion. So far, so good. But polls have also shown that most people support abortion for eugenic reasons, and in cases of a potentially handicapped baby.
There is a great need for someone to speak up for the victim. Dr. Bernad Nathanson showed an abortion from the point of view of the pre-born child in “The Silent Scream.” Today, the Handicapped Division of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has taken up the challenge in Britain and its members are speaking out on behalf of their unborn brothers and sisters.
They say however, that “the pro-life movement cannot tackle effectively the issue of eugenic abortion without tackling discriminating attitudes towards the disabled.” They are attempting to bring home to the man in the street that disabled people are not a class apart. They are like everyone else, sometimes happy, sometimes miserable, but able to live happy, useful, fulfilling lives if given a chance. Just as in the public at large, some disabled people have brilliant minds, others are less bright; some are highly gifted in art or music – others are colour blind or tone deaf; some are blessed with leadership and organizational skills, others are content to do the work given to them. In short, they are like the rest of mankind. However, they do have special needs to be able to reach their potential, and thus benefit society.
It is important, too, to show to the man or woman in the street that when the pre-born handicapped child is aborted because he or she is less than perfect, then society is downgrading and scorning all handicapped people – whether handicapped or as a result of an accident. If a spina bifida baby is aborted because he or she does not measure up to some standard of perfection, then the implication is that all spina bifida patients are less valued, and maybe would be better dead.
A new agenda
In order to combat this mentality SPUC’s Pro-life Handicapped Division has set itself a new agenda. Recently SPUC spent money to bring together some 75 speakers and organizers for a crash-course training session. One highly successful activity has been a series of Human Awareness weeks in various centers. Alision Davis, who is the organizer of SPUC’s Handicapped Division, was born with spina bifida. In her book From Where I sit, she outlines the difficulties of the handicapped, and many of the simple solutions.
A second major campaign by this SPUC Division concerns Down’s Syndrome. This battle is being waged on two fronts: first against discriminatory medical practice and attitudes towards Down’s Syndrome babies; secondly for support of research to find the prevention and cure for the condition. The campaign concerning medical discrimination against babies with Down’s Syndrome was triggered by the story of Maria Hinds.
Maria, a Down’s Syndrome baby, was born with a congenital heart defect which is common in children with Down’s Syndrome, but rather rare in other children. When doctors in England refused to operate on her because she was a Down’s Syndrome child, her mother actually took to the streets with a collecting box to get money to bring the baby to Canada. Maria was operated on at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto and is now flourishing. One “star” for Canada in that here any Down’s Syndrome child is checked in its first few months of life, and if suffering from this heart condition gets routine surgery.
The Anna Fund
The third campaign involves the Anna Fund established recently by a noted pro-life English doctor, Dr. Margaret White. The fund is named after Dr. White’s granddaughter Anna, a Down’s Syndrome baby.
Dr. White’s major concern is that today researchers are more concerned with finding tests to identify the handicapped in the womb, in order to kill them by abortion, than to find the causes and the cures for conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, spina bifida, and cystic fibrosis.
She points out that some fifty years ago a baby with Down’s Syndrome was usually damned at birth with the labels of “retarded,” “uneducable,” and so on. Later on in Britain, under the leadership of Tex Brinkworth )who himself has a child with Down’s Syndrome) a self-help network was established to help parents give extra stimulation to their children so that they can lead nearly normal lives, attend ordinary schools, and hold down a job. When Francoise Brinkworth was born the doctor said: “What a pity, she will never be more than a vegetable.” When she was twenty-two years old, her father pointed out with pride that Francoise could read, type, operate a word processor, play the piano and drive a car.
Rex Brinkworth’s methods and the work of the organization he founded, the Down’s Children’s Association, have been copied in many countries. Some Down Syndrome children are able to read at five years old, ahead of the rank and file in public schools. Recently, however, Rex Brinkworth was forced out from the association he founded because it now wants to devote more efforts towards identifying the syndrome before birth – in order to destroy the child.
Cuts in research
The funds for research into the prevention and cure of Down’s Syndrome are drying up. Dr. White says: “More important than remedial treatment is prevention and possibly cure. About 20 years ago there were up to half-a-dozen geneticists in Europe doing research into this.
Professor Jerome Lejeune of Paris had discovered the extra chromosome which was the cause of the condition; and had they all continued with their research, I have no doubt that by now the problem would have been solved. Alas! It was not to be. The abortion mentality swept across Europe in the 70s and by the end of the decade only Professor Lejeune (who incidentally is a distinguished member of the Pontifical Academy of Science) was still working on the problem. In spite of his unique work and many academic accolades, the French government – doubtless affected by the same elitist views on handicap as the rest of Europe – cut off al the funds for his research.
Since then, the Professor has been struggling to continue his research with money he has received from the SPUC Educational Research Trust in Britain and from the ‘Michael Fund’ of the USA. He has 90 per cent of the riddle solved; it is possible that a mere change of diet for Down’s children could prevent their disabilities and he is confident that he will find the answer within a decade.
“He might well find it sooner, were it not so necessary for him to travel the world lecturing in order to raise funds to pay his technicians.”
Dr. Jerome Lejeune, who discovered the cause of Down’s Syndrome was an extra chromosome, has also (with his team) discovered the causes of over a quarter of all other chromosomal disorders, and is well on his way to possible cures. Research needs money. That is why Dr. White established the Anna Fund.
Dr. White added that Anna’s birth “has spurred me to try and help solve the riddle of the extra chromosome…I am 70, I will not see what happens to my granddaughter as she grows up, and I am going to fight until my dying breath to help these most innocent of God’s children, so that whatever the future holds for little Anna, her birth will not have been in vain.
Recently the Association of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn (London, England) published in its newsletter a critique of the types of research being undertaken regarding the handicapped child. The writer pointed out that medical advances have put the handicapped pre-born child at greater risk than ever before, precisely because its condition can be detected before birth, and the child be aborted. The article mentioned three more cases where genetic testing is being carried on simply to identify an affected pre-born child, the only purposes of the tests being to track down and kill the baby. The three inherited disorders mentioned are cystic fibrosis, osteogenesis imperfecta – a brittle bone disease, and a mental handicap in some males caused by “the fragile gene.”
The article states, “Once again, the researchers talk about prevention of the disease by their screening, when they clearly mean killing the child. There appear, unhappily, to be a number of charities for the disabled which actively promote and support this type of research. We have a clear duty, it would seem, in planning our charitable donations or advising others about them, to ensure that such charities will be excluded from our list.”
The position in Canada
It is no secret that the direct killing of pre-born babies with potential handicaps has been adopted by many Canadian physicians as an acceptable practice, even though this was not allowed under the Criminal Code. But what of the proposed new law? Here we must look at the Law Reform Commission’s Report, Crimes against the Foetus. This is a beautiful example of doublespeak. First the Commission days: “In our view, however, our society and our law, especially since the enactment of the Charter, has no place for the notion that the handicapped, born or unborn, are a lesser breed than their more fortunate able-bodied counterparts.
That is a beautiful pro-life statement. However, in the very next sentence the Commission opens the gates to getting abortions, and explains that “in such cases [i.e., handicaps]…the continued pregnancy would produce such trauma as to undermine the mother’s health” and thus would justify killing thee child. The life of every handicapped pre-born baby is threatened under the proposed legislation.
A new pro-life force
In the world-wide struggle against abortion we learn form other countries, and it has been proposed that Canadians who themselves have some handicap, together with their families, form a special pro-life organization. Such an organization would have the credibility and the political clout to speak for the handicapped pre-born and against eugenic abortion.
There is already very strong support for such an organization, and offers of help are coming forward. It is essential that the leader of the movement should be perceived by others as being handicapped, though the person himself/herself has no such perception.
It is gratifying to know that a very well-known lawyer has agreed to act as first president of the association. We are looking for members and help amongst the handicapped themselves, their families, physicians and others with experience and expertise.
In order to help the new president set up this organization, with the support needed, and at the same time move forward as quickly as possible, we are asking that initially all interested in this effort write, or phone, Campaign Life Coalition. Mark the envelopes “Handicapped.”