29 April 2007
Search and Destroy – Down Syndrome
Right to Life deplores the decision of the Minister of Health the Hon Pete Hodgson to request the National Screening
Unit to advise him on how to implement a national screening programme for Down syndrome. A programme for screening all
pregnant women for Down syndrome is a search and destroy mission. Those women who tested positive for Down syndrome
would be encouraged to abort their child. The sole purpose of this programme would be to define who shall live and who
shall die. This is unjust discrimination against the disabled. Every child at conception is endowed by its creator with
an inalienable right to life. A child does not lose its right to life because it has a genetic condition.
The Minister of Health has a responsibility to protect life and to promote the health of the community; his action
reveals that the government does not welcome the birth of children with Down syndrome. Its response is to sanction and
fund the killing of children with Down syndrome; this is eugenics which promotes a humanistic quality of life ethic
which decrees that only the perfect have a right to life. The Minister in this action is promoting a culture of death.
The right to life is a sacred principle of civilisation; it is an indispensable guarantee of the individual worth of the
persons within it, its universal denial would fail to recognise the dignity of man.
There are many people who are born with Down syndrome who have a good quality of life and who make a valuable
contribution to the family and society.
Right to Life welcomes the Minister’s decision to discontinue risky diagnostic tests that have been leading to the
miscarriage of dozens of unborn children.
This proposed national screening programme should be seen in the context of the public debate on the government
supported repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act that would outlaw the smacking of children. The Prime Minister has said
that her government wishes to give a clear message to the community that violence against children is unacceptable.
Violence against children begins in the womb. The government is giving the message that they support the killing of
unborn children, including those with Down syndrome, but that after birth you may not smack them.