You must be Christian...
Well, not yet, but with certain disabilities it's heading in that direction. Here are some interesting and disturbing stats.
A med student named Brian Skotka (whose sibling has Down syndrome) did an interesting study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology where he collected demographic information about women who had found out from pre-natal tests that their babies had Down syndrome and nonetheless carried their children to term. The methodology was to poll all the mothers in a number of DS support groups, and ask which ones had received a pre-natal diagnosis. Those who had received pre-natal diagnosis were asked further questions about their experience.
One of the interesting statistics in the study is that 42% of the women who found out their babies had DS and yet chose to bring them to term were Catholic. The religious breakdown of the rest was as follows: Protestant 35%, Mormon 4.4%, Jewish 3%, No Religion 2%, Other 12.7%.
Now, around 25% of the US population identifies as Catholic, so clearly Catholics are seriously over-represented in this group. One would assume from that that either Catholics are more likely to conceive children with DS, or Catholics are more likely to bring a child with DS to term. (Since the study only talked to women who had children with DS, women who aborted babies diagnosed with DS were automatically filtered out.)
Sure enough, the women Skotka polled reported "My 'inner voice'" and "My religion" as the two primary reasons for choosing to bring their babies to term.
This reminded me of a George Will column about aborting babies with Down syndrome which I read some time back. In it, he cites the statistic that more than 80% of the babies diagnosed pre-natally with Down syndrome in the US are aborted. So I did a little math:
From Skotka's study we have the figure that about 5000 children are born with Down syndrome in the US each year. Based on the percentage of mothers of children with DS who reported they had received a pre-natal diagnosis, Skotka estimates that 625 babies with pre-natally diagnosed DS are born each year.
Now take that figure that Will cites, that 80% of babies pre-natally diagnosed with DS are aborted. Bouncing that off Skotka's figures, that gives us 3125 babies pre-natally diagnosed with DS every year, out of 7500 conceived with DS. However, if all babies with DS were diagnosed pre-natally, and the current pattern held, only 1500 would be born a year, rather than 5000.
This may be something of an exaggeration, because it could be that a number of women refuse pre-natal testing for Down syndrome specifically because they have no intention of aborting. The thing we would need to know is if mothers of the 4375 babies not diagnosed pre-natally were offered testing and refused it, or simply were not asked.
Still. It seems pretty clear that as pre-natal diagnosis of DS becomes more common, fewer and fewer babies with DS will be allowed to be born, and of those who are born, a large percentage will be from actively religious families. There may very well come a time in the not too distant future when having a child with a pre-natally detectable genetic disability is seen as something only "Jesus freaks" and "fundamentalists" do. And it will be interesting to see if there is then a push to reduce public assistance for families with disabled children, on the theory that it's "optional" to have such a child.
Learning Notes Week of April 17
5 minutes ago