Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Another great article

I wasn't going to post anything about this "event" that happened in Italy, but I loved this response piece in the Toronto Sun. http://www.thestar.com/article/253107

The article talks about what happened, but I'll recap it briefly:
- a woman in Italy was pregnant with twins
- via tests, they found out one of the twins hand Down syndrome, the other did not
- the woman opted to have the child with Down syndrome aborted but leave the other one alone
- due to some medical oversight or mistake (they say the twins shifted positions in between the ultrasound and the abortion), the doctor aborted the "normal" twin and left the one with DS living
- the woman was furious, upset etc etc
- she then had the remaining twin (the one with DS) also aborted

As she was in Italy, the Vatican responded to this situation, calling it what it is: eugenics.

'Culture of perfection' destroying us
Sep 08, 2007 04:30 AM Helen Henderson

An Italian woman who sought to abort one of the twins she was expecting is at the centre of an international furor over society's attitude to children with disabilities.
When she was 18 weeks pregnant, the 38-year-old from Milan was told that one of her twin baby girls had Down syndrome, characterized by an extra chromosome and intellectual disability. She asked doctors to abort that fetus. By mistake, they aborted the other. Subsequently, the second fetus was also aborted.

No surprise that the pro-Vatican L'Osservatore Romano censured the abortions, which were performed in June but made public only last month. But the newspaper also encapsulated the crux of the debate when it said the story exposes "the culture of perfection that imposes the exclusion of all that does not appear beautiful, glowing, positive, captivating.
"What remains is emptiness, the desert of a life without content, though perfectly planned," the newspaper continued.

And there you have it.

In a world where biotechnology and genetic engineering strive for the smartest, the strongest and the most conventionally beautiful, there is less and less room for diversity.
Yet until society embraces diversity, until it willingly and unstintingly makes provision for those who are not cast from the common mould, we will never achieve peace, inwardly or outwardly.
And without peace, we will simply self-destruct – all of us, and sooner rather than later.

Twenty-two years ago, Toronto's Ruth Halperin gave birth to twins. Her daughter Daniella has Down syndrome. Daniella's twin brother Jesse does not.

"It is society that needs to be changed, not the child," says Halperin.

Daniella, who says she loves to dance, is helping at a daycare centre, a work placement that is part of the vocational course she is taking at Seneca College. Jesse is in Holland, doing a semester overseas as part of his training to be a lawyer.

Halperin counts both her twins as blessings.

"Daniella has such a full life," she said in a telephone interview last week as her daughter got ready to welcome friends for a barbeque. She said she is shocked by the news out of Italy, where a fierce public debate is dominating news.

"What happened in this hospital was not a medical abortion but an abortion done for the purposes of eugenics," one Italian senator is quoted as saying, referring to the philosophy, commonly associated with Nazi Germany, that humankind can be improved through selective reproduction.

Kids with disabilities are experts in wisdom and beauty and fortitude that come from deep inside. They nurture their nurturers against the fear, ignorance and closed minds that seek to block them from belonging.

If biotechnologists were smart, this is what they would be tapping in their race to "enhance" evolution.

The Italian mother-to-be is a victim of the cult of ignorance, spread in language that speaks volumes about attitudes. She is reported to have told the Corriere della Sera that she and her husband are "desperate over this terrible mistake" and were consulting lawyers.

The twin with Down syndrome is variously referred to in stories about the incident as "the sick fetus"and "the wrong twin."

"We must create a different emotional environment, a culture of hope," says Keith Powell, executive director of Community Living Ontario, which advocates for the full inclusion of people identified as having intellectual disabilities. "We need an affirmative action campaign to advance the gifts of people with disabilities."

Let's start right now as individuals to do the right thing.

Helen Henderson's column appears every second Saturday. Read more of her columns at

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