Down Syndrome and the Image of God

They are Champions!

Swimming USA is picking the brains of Australian swimming coach, Craig Tobin, to improve the American Down syndrome swimming program.

Down Syndrome swim team

Russell Booysen, Ashley-Kate Schlenner and Michael Cox of the Australian Down syndrome Swimming Team.

Why is this? Australia has won the last five Down syndrome swimming world championships!

The members of the national team train ten times a week with gym sessions on top of that. Coach Craig Tobin adds,

“It is also a good opportunity for them to get together with their peers and work together.”

Down Syndrome Swimming Australia chairman Simon Cox says,

“These guys are seriously competitive. They get on the blocks and swim their hearts out. They are fabulous ambassadors for Australia.”

Such stories of the Down syndrome community show us that individuals with disabilities can make wonderful contributions to society. But does our society truly value people with Down syndrome?

An Extra Chromosome

In humans, each of the millions of body cells normally contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Chromosomes are long structures of organised DNA. They contain all the genetic information on how a person develops. A person with Down syndrome, however, has a third copy of chromosome 21, which gives them 47 chromosomes. This is why Down syndrome is sometimes known as Trisomy 21. As such, Down syndrome is a genetic condition, not an illness or disease.

Down syndrome is typically associated with intellectual disabilities and some distinct physical features, such as a smaller stature and ‘almond- shaped’ eyes. It was named after British doctor John Langdon Down, who first fully described the syndrome in 1866. But it wasn’t until 1959 that the genetic cause of Down syndrome was discovered. Down Syndrome Australia says “one of every 700-900 babies worldwide will have Down syndrome.”

People with Down Syndrome are more likely to be born with other conditions such as heart abnormalities. However, with appropriate support and treatment, many people with Down Syndrome lead happy and productive lives. Their life expectancy in the 1950s was 15. Now it approaches 60.

Divine Simplicity

Parents are often devastated when they are told by the doctor that their unborn baby has Down syndrome. As a result, most follow the medical advice to abort their child. But a small minority of parents see things differently and keep their child.

Richard Dawkins, a well-known scientist and atheist, once said in a Twitter rant in reference to a woman knowingly bearing a baby with Down Syndrome,

“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

But the overwhelming majority of parents who have Down syndrome children find those claims foolish. Their children bring them much joy. One example is a father, Corey Latta, shared in Christianity Today how his young son’s Down syndrome challenged his theology and expanded his understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God. Sharing about his son’s “divine simplicity”, he says,

“When Gus is excited, he waves his arms in an undignified ceremony. If his brother or sisters take a toy from him, Gus repays the gesture with bright-eyed acceptance. There’s no negotiation in his needs; he shares them without apology. He squeals in unembarrassed joy when I approach, cries in full-hearted need when I walk away.”

It is Not Acceptable!

In Australia, most expectant mothers enjoy a high level of prenatal health care. But offering prenatal testing and screening programs to identify unborn children with disabilities such as Down syndrome, has opened the door for eugenic abortion. Today, in Australia and the nations of the Western world, over 90 percent of babies with Down syndrome are aborted. Iceland aborts 100 percent.

It seems that children with disabilities such as Down syndrome are regarded as a liability which will consume health system resources and taxpayer dollars. Often it is falsely claimed that children with Down syndrome will not enjoy a good quality of life. As a result, unborn Down syndrome babies are reduced to a disposable commodity and consigned to abortion.

Many see this as a modern resurgence of the eugenics movement which lost momentum when it was associated with the Nazi horrors of World War II. The aim of Hitler’s T4 Program was to eliminate those deemed an embarrassment to the ‘master race.’ As a result, many physically and intellectually disabled people were systematically killed.

In the last decade, there have been astounding advances in genetic engineering. But for all its promise, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, an expert in bioethics, is worried about where all this new biotechnology is headed. “At the moment,” he says,

“Most of the genetic science in this area is being used to search and destroy… to search out all the Down’s syndrome babies and abort them, to search out people who don’t have this quality or that quality. And I think what is on the horizon… is even more worrying in terms of the power it gives to manipulate ourselves and each other.”

LifeSiteNews launched a petition on UN-sponsored World Down Syndrome Day, 21 March 2019, calling on the UN Commission of Human Rights to globally bring an end to the eugenic abortion of Down syndrome babies. An organisation in New Zealand, called Saving Downs, has taken its government’s prenatal screening program to the International Criminal Court. They say eugenic abortion for babies with Down syndrome is “persecutory”.

Like each and every one of us, people with Down syndrome are unique bearers of God’s image with inherent value and dignity. Let us truly value and and help them to reach their full potential.

Video: NZ PM Jacinda Ardern’s Bill to introduce abortion up to birth for children with Down’s syndrome — Parents speak out

 

Prayer:

Father God, thank You that every person is unique and bears Your image.
We ask that You rebuke Satan, who is convincing our society that babies with disabilities such as Down syndrome are unworthy of life and disposable.
Jesus said, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.” (Mt. 18:10)
In the Name of Jesus, we stand against the resurgence of the eugenics movement in our society and in Western nations which seek to eliminate people with Down syndrome.
Help us to welcome and appreciate people with Down syndrome into our families and communities. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

[Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash]

By |2021-06-09T13:36:55+10:00June 14th, 2021|Australia, Children, Life|2 Comments

About the Author:

Born in Toronto in 1953, David attended the Royal Military College of Canada and graduated with a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering. After ten years in the Canadian Armed Forces, David retired as a Captain and went to work in Papua New Guinea as a volunteer government engineer. There he met and married Marilyn, an Australian missionary Bible teacher.

Together, David and Marilyn served as missionaries at the Christian Leaders’ Training College, an interdenominational Bible College serving the churches of the South Pacific Islands. David was the Dean of Distance Theological Education. In this role, David and Marilyn wrote several Theological Education by Extension courses. During their twenty-five years in Papua New Guinea they developed a passion for prayer, revival and missions supported by sound Biblical teaching.

After returning to Australia, David served as a full-time volunteer prayer coordinator and writer with the Canberra Declaration, and a member of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting organising team. David and Marilyn have three daughters, all born in Papua New Guinea; and eight grandchildren, all born in Australia. David became an Australian citizen in 2007 and enjoys playing hymns on the bagpipes.

2 Comments

  1. Warwick Marsh June 14, 2021 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Great article!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Dawn Newstead June 15, 2021 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Thank you. These children give such joy to the world.

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