Down Syndrome, and the unwanted children

Two tweets appeared on my twitter feed this morning, juxtaposed to each other. At first I couldn’t believe the ignominious paradox, for both related to children with Down Syndrome: one was about letting kids be kids, and the other tells of a nation who is systematically killing off all such children.

 

The first tweet refers to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald written by Peter FitzSimons, in which he responds to a call to ban a boy with Down Syndrome from playing in a local soccer team. Why? Because, while soccer allows for 11 players on the pitch, Marc Reichler-Stillhard, plays as a 12th. No one has had any problem with him playing as an extra, until now. FitzSimons has written a beautiful account of this young boy and his local soccer club, including a sensible appeal to the Football association:

“It has been wonderful for Marc and his family, great for the Yamba team who love to play with him, and make sure he gets to kick the ball, and the opposing teams in the Clarence Valley have respected the situation, and Marc, not taking advantage of his position in the team.

So it’s all fun in the sun, yes, in a manner that would bring a tear to a glass eye, as the true spirit of community sport for kids is embraced? Yes, for nearly everyone.

Somewhere out there, however, last week, a complaint was made by just one of the opposing clubs that this was – wait for it – against the rules, asking North Coast Football to stop Marc playing as a 12th man.

NCF have upheld the complaint. Though they are OK to provide an exemption to him on grounds of age, they now insist that Yamba field only 11 players.

And so allow me please, a few words, NCF, and the club making the complaint.

I respectfully submit that you are making the wrong decision and should reconsider. This is kids’ sport. This is about fun, about inclusion, about humanity. It may or may not be that Marc’s inclusion affects the outcome of the game one way or another, but, who gives a flying frock?”

The second tweet concerns a story from Iceland. This tiny Island nation is determined to ‘eradicate’ Down Syndrome…by killing all unborn children who are discovered to have the condition.

CBS reporter interviewed an Icelandic mum with a Down Syndrome child. She said of her country, that ’three babies born with Down syndrome is “quite more than usual. Normally there are two, in the last few years.”

Following this story, Actor Patricia Heaton sent out this message, ‘Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down Syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference.’

In addition, here in Australia, a 4 Corners special report revealed on Monday that 9 out of 10 babies who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are now aborted.

It is easy to see the jarring paradox of these two morning tweets.

We are confused. Are children human beings or not? Are unborn children fully human? Are some children, born or unborn, somehow lesser than others because they carry a medical condition? Is the inherent worth of some children expunged because they are likely to carry with them a disease or disability?

Since when does the vaginal canal transpose a Being from subhuman to fully human? Since when should we fight for the freedom of children to play, learn, and be loved, and yet pressure parents to have these children removed from the womb and have their life taken?

The very nature of loving community requires the unexpected and the difficult, and rather than eliminating those surprises, we alter our life expectations in order to to see their lives flourish.

Jesus once said, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. Indeed, how great a love it is to sacrifice our hopes and plans for children who enter our lives.

These words may now be 3,000 years old, but they remain true today, even for individualist and narcissist societies that may cringe at their beauty:

“For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place,

    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” (Psalm 139:13-15)

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