Are people with Down’s syndrome truly valued?

Feb 12, 2018 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

General Synod of the Church of England met last week from Thursday to Saturday, and it was markedly less traumatic than some previous meetings. There were some challenging issues—the main ones for debate being the proposal for moving towards interchangeability of ministry with the Methodist Church, a report on safeguarding issues, and a motion on the value of people with Down’s Syndrome. But there was a lower prevalence of speeches aimed at emotional manipulation, and a willingness to actually engage with theological issues in the context of debate. Perhaps kicking things into the long grass is helpful if it means we get cross with each other over something other than sexuality…!

But I came away from the final debate with surprising feelings of anger and disappointment. The motion on Down’s Syndrome was prompted by the availability of non-invasive pre-natal testing (NIPT) for Down’s, which it is feared will lead to an increase in both the pressure and the practice of termination of a foetus on the basis of having Down’s Syndrome alone, moving us towards the situation in Iceland where termination is near 100%, and there are very few people with Down’s left in the country. The concern is not simply about official policy but about actual practice, which consistently appears to put pressure on parents. Sally Phillips, the comedian whose 11-year-old son Ollie has Down’s (pictured), talked at a lunch-time meeting about friends of hers who had been approached nine times with the possibility of termination during her pregnancy.

The motion for debate had several parts in it, moving from the Church’s view and concerns, through to a request to medical agencies to ensure that impartial information and support is offered to parents during the pregnancy.

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