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New law may reduce Down abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush has signed into law a measure that may help to curtail the number of abortions of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome and other conditions.

The Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act requires parents whose children receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome or another malady to be provided with the latest information on the condition and be informed of support services available. This would apply to a diagnosis on a child before birth or until a year after birth. The measure also would establish a registry of families willing to adopt special needs children.

The measure seeks to address the reported lack of information and support given to parents whose unborn children test positive for conditions such as Down syndrome.

It has been estimated about 90 percent of American children diagnosed in the womb with Down syndrome are aborted, sometimes after their parents have been given hopeless descriptions of their offsprings’ futures. A similar abortion percentage exists for unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida, cystic fibrosis and dwarfism, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., has reported.

“This is a great victory for the culture of life we should all seek to promote,” Brownback said in a written statement after Bush signed the bill Oct. 8. “[The 90 percent abortion rate for unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome] is much too high and suggests that we as a society are not doing everything we can to protect every human life, at every stage.”

The new law means parents “will be more likely to receive up-to-date, scientific information about life expectancy, clinical course, intellectual and functional development, and prenatal and postnatal treatment options,” the National Down Syndrome Society and National Down Syndrome Congress said in a joint release after Congress approved the legislation.

Currently, “the information that is all too often being provided … is outdated and inaccurate,” the organizations said. “The treatment options, functional development, opportunities and accomplishments of individuals with Down syndrome have improved dramatically over the years, yet decades old stereotypes still persist.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) made a recommendation in January 2007 that pro-life advocates said would likely increase the number of abortions of Down syndrome-diagnosed babies. ACOG recommended all pregnant women, no matter their age, be offered testing for the condition. Previously, women 35 years and older were automatically offered testing for the condition, according to ACOG.

The bill’s enactment came less than six weeks after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family, which includes a son with Down syndrome, came into the national spotlight. The Republican nominee for vice president learned through prenatal testing that her fifth child, Trig, would be born with Down syndrome. Palin, a pro-lifer, gave birth to Trig in April.

The House of Representatives passed the bill by voice vote Sept. 25, two days after the Senate approved it by unanimous consent.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., was the lead cosponsor of the Brownback-authored bill.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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