Vatican to UN: Protect Those with Down Syndrome from Eugenics

Ailith Harley-Roberts with her daughter Thalia, 8, who has Down syndrome, in Chapel Allerton Park in Leeds on March 20, 2018. (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

The Holy See’s ambassador to the United Nations called out the world body for failing to protect the human rights of the disabled in “the eugenic trend of ending the lives of the unborn who show some form of imperfection.”

Speaking Tuesday on World Down Syndrome Day during a side event at the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Archbishop Bernardito Auza noted that at the UN “there is much sincere talk and normally passionate action to fight against any form of discrimination.”

“But as firm as these commitments are in principle, in practice many States, UN agencies and members of civil society tolerate gross violations of these commitments. The international community says that it wants to leave no one behind and to defend the rights and equality of women and girls, for example, but then refuses to do anything when data show that the youngest girls are being systematically discriminated against in the womb, as in the case of sex selective abortion,” he said.

“…The inconsistency, however, is even more pronounced when we turn to what is happening with those prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. Despite the commitments made in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including that of the right to life, by all persons with disabilities, so many members of the international community stand on the sidelines as the vast majority of those diagnosed with Trisomy-21 have their lives ended before they’re even born.”

The archbishop stressed that countries boasting of eliminating Down syndrome mean they’re eliminating people with Down syndrome, “because 100 percent of parents of babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome were choosing to end the life of their son or daughter.”

“Rather than stop it, some in the international community are abetting it. In November last year, one of the members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, based in Geneva, stated during an official meeting of the UNHRC, ‘If you tell a woman, “Your child has … Down Syndrome … or that he may have a handicap forever, for the rest of his life,” … it should be possible for her to resort to abortion to avoid the handicap as a preventive measure.’ Defending those with disabilities, he said, ‘does not mean that we have to accept to let a disabled fetus live,'” Auza continued. “Is such a position consistent with the UN’s concern to leave no one behind and to protect the rights of those with disabilities?”

The Holy See representative cited surveys of those with Down syndrome and their families that conclude “Down children and their families are simply among the happiest groups of people alive — and the world is happier because of them.”

He quoted then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the first UN observance of World Down Syndrome Day six years ago: “On this day, let us reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down Syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others. Let us build an inclusive society for all.”

Auza noted that Pope Francis said in October that “the response to the eugenic trend of ending the lives of the unborn who show some form of imperfect is, in short, love.”

The pope tweeted today: “Nobody can be discarded, because we are all vulnerable. Each one of us is a treasure whom God allows to grow in his or her own way.”