Reflections on the Teaching of Vatican II Through the Magisterium of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Eugenic abortion is alive and well in many national health-care plans. It is contrary to our human dignity, according to French geneticist Dr. Jerome Lejeune, who discovered Trisomy 21, the cause of Down syndrome, in 1959. His discovery, when used with karotyping and amniocentesis, formed the basis of prenatal testing. Lejeune was greatly distressed that his discovery was used to perform eugenic abortions, and he spent the rest of his life seeking a cure for Down syndrome, believing that the only way to keep such children from disappearing was to cure them.
“People say, ‘The price of genetic diseases is high. If these individuals could be eliminated early on, the savings would be enormous.’” Lejeune said in 1992. “It cannot be denied that the price of these diseases is high — in suffering for the individual and in burdens for society. Not to mention what parents suffer! But we can assign a value to that price: It is precisely what society must pay to be fully human.”
Lejeune defended the rights of the unborn and the disabled around the world, aware that he was losing his chance for the Nobel Prize in science that his discovery of Trisomy 21 merited.
The Church, however, has noted his heroic virtue, and, on June 28, 2007, Lejeune’s cause for canonization was opened in Paris. On April 11, a Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame will celebrate the end of the diocesan phase of Lejeune’s cause, as it will then move to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. With two approved miracles, people with Down syndrome may have their own patron saint.
Some say Lejeune is already interceding for those with Down syndrome, noting the recent advances in research, which have led to several clinical trials of new medications to help reverse the cognitive delays of Trisomy 21, and the increasingly high profile of individuals with Down syndrome in society.
The United Nations this year recognized World Down Syndrome Day for the first time on March 21. The date — 3/21 — represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome which cause the syndrome.
Parents and advocates for those with Down syndrome are thrilled about this recognition. “World Down Syndrome Day is needed now more than ever as advances in prenatal testing and government-funded screening programs are implemented,” Diane Grover, founder of International Down Syndrome Coalition for Life, told LifeSiteNews. “We want parents to be prepared when their physician offers a genetic screening. Too often, parents are given test results without any prior understanding of the tests they have been given, and they make decisions when they are most vulnerable.
“We want people to know the unlimited possibilities that can happen for individuals who have Down syndrome," Grover said. "Today, more than ever, people with Down syndrome are breaking barriers.”