British actress Sally Phillips may be best known to Americans for her roles in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” or “Veep,” but she’s taking on a new role in the UK that is causing many to pay attention.
Phillips is the mother of three children, and her oldest son Ollie, has Down Syndrome. She is one of many parents of children with Down Syndrome concerned about the UK government’s proposal to implement a new prenatal test (second-line cfDNA screening: NIPT – non-invasive prenatal testing) that is projected to result in a significant increase in terminations of children with Down’s Syndrome.
According to the advocacy group, Don’t Screen Us Out, the consequences of this testing “would have a profound long-term effect on the population of the Down’s syndrome community, and enable a kind of informal eugenics in which certain kinds of disabled people are effectively ‘screened out’ of the population before they are even born.”
Troubled by these reports, Phillips embarked on the process of making a documentary about the testing, and to show the world firsthand the inherent value and dignity of individuals like her son Ollie. She opens the film with the questions: “What kind of society do we want? And who should be allowed to live in it?”
This is a fascinating, and at times hard film to watch, as a wide variety of individuals share their thoughts on Down Syndrome, genetic testing, and abortion. One must also keep in mind that Phillips has never claimed to be a pro-life advocate; in fact, she has one comment to a researcher that would indicate that she supports a “woman’s choice.” However, the overwhelming message of the documentary is that the extremely high (and increasing) rate of abortion for diagnoses of Down Syndrome is not only a bad thing for society, it’s discrimination in the worst way towards a group of people.
The films opens with some poignant and hilarious scenes of Phillips and her three children. She quips that when she first learned her son had Down Syndrome (not until several days after he was born), “I was expecting tragedy but I got comedy.” She also mentions here that a majority of families with an individual with Down Syndrome are very happy.
She interviews a fetal genetic testing doctor, and questions “why is everyone behaving like having a baby with Down Syndrome is a catastrophe?” One of the reasons he cites is that people think of the child as a burden to the family for many years.” Phillips responds, “A burden that lasts a long time? That’s not how I see Ollie.”
A visit to Iceland, where the termination rate has reached nearly 100% for babies with Down Syndrome, is also part of the documentary. Phillips visits an exhibition of photographs of individuals with Down Syndrome by Sigga Ella, and interviews one of the few remaining individuals with Down Syndrome in Iceland. “It felt like they were coming after me,” the young woman shares when she hears reports on the “elimination of Down Syndrome.”
Ultimately, Phillips questions the idea of choice. She interviews a mother who chose to abort her child because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis. You can visibly see that Phillips is having a hard time with this. The mother spoke of a desire for happiness for her and her child. Afterwards, Phillips reflects,
“I think she’s wrong that an increase in choices increases happiness…The thing I keep coming up against is this idea of choice. Ollie had 1 in 10000 chance of Down Syndrome – back then if I was told I’d have a child with disability, I’m not sure if I’d had been able to say yes. But having him in my life has changed me and my family for the better. That makes me question whether choice is the great thing it’s cracked up to be. Where will all these choices take us?”
Sadly, she concludes, that the “choice” to terminate with Down Syndrome nearly 100% of the time, could lead to the frightening vision of “a world without Down Syndrome.” That is a world Phillips – and the March for Life – wants to prevent. As she poignantly concludes, “there is great value in things not being perfect.”
The 2018 March for Life is three months away! If you haven’t already, be sure to mark your calendars for Friday, January 19 to march for life in Washington, D.C. Below are three simple things you can do to get your planning started.
1. Sign up!
By signing up for March for Life email updates, we’ll be sure to send you the latest information about the March for Life, speaker announcements, and other important pro-life opportunities.
2. Download the March for Life app!
The app is a great way to connect with the March for Life community. You’ll also have all of the March for Life planning and logistical details at your fingertips. It’s available for iPhone and Android users.
3. Invite your friends!
We need the voice of every pro-life American to speak out against the injustice of abortion and to witness to the beauty of life at the March for Life. Please commit to inviting friends to participate in the 2018 March for Life!
Increased participation not only strengthens the public witness against abortion but being a Marcher is a transformative activity! It is so easy to invite– you can use email, social media, or simply make an old-fashioned phone call!
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. We’re featuring three of our favorite parents who are advocates for their children with Down Syndrome (there are also many more!). These families are breaking stereotypes and showing the world that every life is a gift!
For the 2015 March for Life with the theme, “Every Life is a Gift,” Carissa shared her story and work with Jack’s Baskets. Its mission is to celebrate babies born with Down syndrome, to ensure that every new and expectant parent is provided resources and avenues of support within the community, and to educate medical providers on how to discuss the diagnosis in an unbiased way in hopes that the birth of a child with Down syndrome is celebrated like any other.
Carissa and Jack also joined the March for Life in an Instagram Takeover a few years ago. See the pictures here!
Thank you, Carissa, for being an advocate for Jack and kids and families with Down Syndrome!
2. Rick Smith
Rick is the father of two boys, with another on the way! His son Noah, has Down Syndrome, and since Noah’s birth, Rick has been a tireless advocate for his son and all individuals with Down Syndrome.
Thank you for all you do, Rick, for Noah and the Down Syndrome community!
3. Oakley Peterson
Oakley is mom to three precious children, including Welles who has Down Syndrome. She documents her life on the blog, “Nothing Down About It.” Her mission is to “encourage other mothers out there who are new to this situation. I was just there at the beginning and now offer you my support and love.” She further shares, “Our wonderful special children unite us with a unique bond and blessing and responsibility. Together we can shrug off stigmas and help people embrace the goodness of these angels among us! Together we can help all of our children realize their full potential.”
During the Facebook Live session, Dr. Bruchaski and Will Waldron, Executive Director of Divine Mercy Care, also shared about an upcoming free lecture that the center is hosting, “Down Syndrome as a Pro-Life Cause.” The lecture will feature Madame Birthe Lejeune, wife of the renowned French physician and geneticist, Dr. Jerome Lejeune. Dr. Lejeune is credited with discovering the chromosomal cause of Down Syndrome. He devoted his life to promoting the dignity of individuals with Down Syndrome and opposing abortion for fetal abnormalities like Down Syndrome.
ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM COMMENT October 6, 2017 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT ADF MEDIA RELATIONS: (480) 444-0020 or www.adfmedia.org/home/contact
The following quotes may be attributed respectively to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor and March for Life President Jeanne Mancini regarding a new rule that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued Friday that expands protections in the Obama-era abortion-pill mandate for organizations with pro-life religious or moral convictions. That mandate had forced many employers, regardless of those beliefs, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties by the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies if the mandate’s requirements weren’t met:
“The beliefs that inspire Christian colleges and universities and the Little Sisters of the Poor to serve their communities should be protected,” said Baylor. “During his campaign, President Trump promised that protecting religious liberty would be a top priority and people of faith would not be bullied on his watch. We are pleased that this rule is a major step forward in keeping that promise and restoring back to people of faith their constitutionally protected freedom. We are also pleased the rule protects the conscience convictions of organizations like March for Life, an organization that bases its pro-life beliefs on science and philosophy, and hosts the largest pro-life gathering in the world every year in Washington, D.C.
“Although organizations that filed civil rights lawsuits will still need final relief from the courts, it is encouraging to see the Trump Administration affirm the principle that all Americans should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith and conscience without threat of government punishment. Access to contraception and other drugs and devices will continue to be as widely and readily available as it always has been for those who want these items. We commend the president for his commitment to freedom and restoring the choice of religious and pro-life employers and their female employees to work at organizations consistent with their convictions. We expect that the Department of Justice will work with us to quickly resolve these cases in a manner that fully and permanently protects the freedom of conscience of our clients.
“The March For Life Education and Defense Fund exists to protect and defend life from conception. When we were forced by the Obama administration to carry drugs and devices that destroy life in its early stages we were appalled and ultimately needed to seek legal protection. It is un-American to force non profit organizations to defy their very reason for being on something as important as life. We are grateful to the Trump Administration for this rule which will allow pro-life organizations to freely operate according to their beliefs on something as important as the protection of life and look forward to final resolution of our case in court that is consistent with this rule,” said Mancini, a litigant against the mandate. “Our nation has a rich history of protecting conscientious objectors and pro-life organizations must be free to operate according to their beliefs.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
“The March for Life stands with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and everyone who voted to pass Micah’s Law, formerly known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This common sense policy that would limit abortion to five months reflects the consensus shared by eight out of ten Americans – abortion should have real legal limits. This bill will not only save between 11,000-18,000 lives a year, but will serve to educate the public on the humanity of the unborn person and affirm the science of fetal pain early in development. We now ask the Senate to also vote on this legislation so that President Trump can fulfill his promise of signing this bill into law.”
Pro-life leaders gathered for Capitol Hill briefing to discuss how the theme embodies the pro-life movement
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The March for Life Education and Defense Fund is thrilled to announce their 2018 theme – “Love Saves Lives”. Today, Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life, was joined by Alison Centofante, Director of Alliance Relations for Alliance Defending Freedom, Chuck Donovan, President of Charlotte Lozier Institute, and Susan Gallucci, Executive Director of Northwest Center, at a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss how the 45th annual March for Life’s theme, “Love Saves Lives”, embodies the mission of the pro-life movement.
“Choosing life is not always easy, but it is the loving, empowering, and self-sacrificial option. Love is universally attractive because it is directed towards others. Love is what we all strive for because deep-down we are all drawn to give of ourselves in this way. Love saves lives in countless ways,” said Jeanne Mancini.
The March for Life, the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration, will be held on January 19th, 2018. Pam Tebow, mother of NFL and MLB player Tim Tebow, has already been announced as the keynote speaker for this year’s Rose Dinner, held the evening of the March for Life. Stephanie Gray, co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, will be keynoting the March for Life Conference held January 18th, 2018.