Down Syndrome early screening test

By Brenda Hanson
November 10, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

It just made me sad to watch. I was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee. I was busy with paperwork, but had the television, specifically "Good Morning America", on just for some noise. The television drew me away from the paperwork when my attention was caught by a story about Down Syndrome and a new prenatal test to screen for Down Syndrome.

You see, my husband and I have a nine-year old daughter with Down Syndrome. She also suffered a stroke when she was 20 months old (from a rare neurological disease called "moyamoya syndrome"). The stroke left Sarah with spastic quadriplegia and total dependence upon us for her care. She is diapered, is non-verbal, and has a feeding tube for medications and fluid intake. Then, in 2003, Sarah was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. She will soon be wrapping up her second year of chemotherapy, and has 11 more months to go. She is in remission, and her prognosis to remain in remission is pretty good. No guarantees, but pretty good.

Sarah is a blessing, a joy, and a gift from God in our lives. Sarah is happy almost all the time. She never feels sorry for herself. She has taught me more about faith, courage, hope, purpose, and priorities than any talking, walking person whose path has ever crossed mine. To say it's been easy would be a lie. To say that there is no bad days would be a lie. It is not all milk and honey and peaches and cream every day. There is a lot of work to do. There is a lot of worry to fight off. But nothing I have ever done in my life has ever made me feel so useful or given me so much meaning as taking care of my totally dependent daughter.

My husband and I were thrilled when we found out I was pregnant with Sarah. I was 26 years old. It was a wonderful pregnancy. We decided to skip the prenatal blood test (AFP test) when it was offered. Besides the fact that I was considered a low-risk pregnancy, neither my husband nor myself would have ever considered terminating my pregnancy no matter what sort of problems our baby could potentially have. When I was seven months pregnant, my OB/GYN did an ultrasound as part of his protocol for all his pregnant patients. The ultrasound was abnormal. The mid-line of Sarah's head was not mid-line. She had hydrocephalus. Other appointments were scheduled with specialists and geneticists. More ultrasounds, a bunch of amniocentisis, and more difficult news ... heart defect, Down Syndrome. As soon as Sarahs lungs were mature, she was delivered C-section on a beautiful June day in 1996. She was absolutely, spectacularly wonderful. It took three months before our baby could come home from the hospital. But, home she came, and we just fell more and more in love with her everyday. More medical problems came along. We dealt with each one the best we knew how. We grew used to doctors and nurses and medical appointments. We have learned how to use feeding tubes, central venous lines, infusion pumps, and catheters. We've had to spend time thinking about the very obvious fact that our daughter could die. That reality has not led to despair, instead it has led to joy at every day that we are blessed to care for, learn from and share life with our daughter. She has a good life. We have a good life. It certainly is not the life we expected. But, over time, it has become even more than the life we ever expected. Life is better than we could have anticipated because we have learned that life is about so much more than convenience and comfort and ease. It's about doing the right thing and finding meaning as a result.

So, there I sat this morning snapped to attention at the news story on "Good Morning America". According to the story, there is a new screening test, to determine if a baby may have Down Syndrome, available around the eleventh week of pregnancy. The anchor on "Good Morning America" wrapped up the story with the comment that such an early pregnancy screening tool results in more choices and options being available for women. I just sat there sad. In the past, that would have made me angry. Today, it just made me sad. It was as if mainstream media is telling me that my child has no value or meaning.

The only reason to screen for Down Syndrome that early in pregnancy is to encourage abortion. I know there are many people out there who would say, "Well, just because you and your husband have been able to handle your situation, doesn't mean that everyone can." I know that. But, I think that American women and American families have been deceived into believing that they can not do things that they just might be able to do. And these things that they just might be able to do, i.e. care for a child with special needs, could possibly be the whole reason for their existence, and if they abort that baby, they abort that perfect opportunity to grow into the best person they can be. There is no question about it, special needs' children can be hard on a family's finances, straining on a marriage, and physically and emotionally exhausting. But, American people are underestimating their ability to cope and grow and handle the difficult situations of life. They are allowing themselves to be deceived into the belief that "choice" in the form of abortion makes their life better, or at least more simple. It does neither.

One day I was listening to a talk radio show. A caller phoned in and was discussing how she and her husband had decided that she should have an abortion when she found out that her baby had Down Syndrome. She said that she had the abortion, and she felt that it was the right thing to do because God doesnt make errors, and Down Syndrome is an error, and therefore abortion is a moral option. She was right about one thing ... God doesn't make errors. Down Syndrome is no "accident" or "error" of nature as secular humanists, concerned only with normal and convenient, may have us believe. Down Syndrome is an opportunity. And, I embrace my daughter with Down Syndrome and all her other medical problems as the best experience of my life, and the best gift God has ever given to me.