“While we are grateful that this was brought to a vote, it is disappointing that the U.S. Senate could not pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act today, a bill that President Donald Trump specifically called upon Congress to bring to his desk at the 45th annual March for Life. This bill would have limited most late term abortions to protect approximately 12,000 unborn children every year. For over a decade, polling has shown that the large majority of Americans – including those who identify as pro-choice – would limit abortion to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. It is a disgrace that our Senate has once again failed to pass a bill that reflects the hearts and minds of the national pro-life consensus.”
Today, lawmakers and pro-life leaders joined together to support the Conscience Protection Act in a press conference on Capitol Hill. The legislation would protect the conscience rights of health care providers from the power of federal and state governments coercing them to participate in the brutal act of abortion.
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.