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Opinion

Repeating an atrocity with 'preventive' care

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President Obama signed "Rosa's Law," sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and named for one of her constituents, a little girl with Down syndrome, in 2010.

The law eliminates the phrase "mental retardation" from federal laws and regulations, replacing it with "intellectual disability." Another law sponsored by Mikulski threatens to eliminate girls like Rosa and my daughter, Juliet, from future generations.

Rick Santorum recently attacked President Obama for the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate requiring no-cost prenatal testing. This mandate is part of Mikulski's amendment to Obamacare requiring preventive care services for women.

Genetic conditions like my Juliet's Down syndrome and Santorum's daughter Bella's Trisomy 18 can be prenatally diagnosed, but not treated prenatally. The HHS mandate begs the question: How does prenatal testing for genetic conditions that cannot be treated prenatally qualify as "preventive" care?

Obama's campaign spokeswoman responded to Santorum's concerns by saying prenatal testing is for the health of the mother and baby and to bring about safer deliveries.

Not so in the case of prenatal testing for genetic conditions. Instead, most women terminate following a positive test result -- a decidedly unhealthy and unsafe delivery for the baby.

Indeed, this is the effect of prenatal testing for genetic conditions. Last summer, a report from Denmark predicted the country would be "Down syndrome-free" by 2030, due to its prenatal testing program.

In Switzerland, 87 percent of all Down syndrome pregnancies are terminated. In France, 96 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted following a prenatal diagnosis.

This effect is not limited to other countries. California has had a prenatal testing program for Down syndrome since the 1980s. Researchers found that 47 percent fewer children with Down syndrome were born than would have naturally occurred.

They flatly admitted that California's prenatal testing program's purpose is to reduce the number of children born with Down syndrome through earlier abortions.

Did Mikulski intend for her preventive care services amendment to eliminate children like Rosa, Juliet, Bella and others with genetic conditions from future generations?

We are left to wonder because, unlike Santorum, Mikulski has not spoken out on this issue. Other voices have so far been silent, too.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton recently stormed out of a hearing on the HHS mandate for birth control. Norton is a co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and a mother to a young lady with Down syndrome.

Perhaps she'll express the same indignation about Obamacare's policy to prevent children like her daughter from being born in future generations? Likewise, the CDSC lists more than 50 members, including Norton's co-chairs and fellow parents, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

Perhaps, they, too, and many others, regardless of political party, will wonder why a regulation expresses the view that unborn children with genetic conditions should be prevented from being born.

Last century, people who thought themselves upstanding citizens stood by silently while a segment of their society was targeted for elimination based solely on their fundamental nature.

Civilized nations said "never again." Yet, here we are at the turn of this century dealing with the next challenge to whether we believe our creed that we are all created equal.

Voices are needed to call for the rescinding of the HHS' mandate for no-cost prenatal testing for genetic conditions as "preventive" care, before we repeat a historic atrocity.

Mark W. Leach is an attorney from Louisville, Ky., and a master of arts in bioethics candidate at the University of Louisville.

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