Saving Downs and the International Down Syndrome Coalition condemn the promotion of eugenics by Whanganui District Health Board member Michael Laws.
Laws made a public statement on his Facebook page on the 8th December stating that eradicating Down syndrome would be “a bloody fantastic achievement”.
His public statements are false and deeply offensive.
The full text of the public statement is:
“I think most women, having discovered they’re carrying a Downs Syndrome foetus, would abort. Dear Lord, very natural reaction.
Incredibly though there are a group of DS activists (the parents of) who want to DENY this test to expectant mothers because they think it has the potential to eradicate Downs Syndrome. And I’m thinking: what a bloody fantastic achievement that would be. Next: multiple sclerosis.”
This was followed by numerous other public statements on Facebook including:
“I’ll be publishing my views to a much wider audience on the critical need to retain and promote the DS test for pregnant women and offering them easier access to abortions if they test positive, in my Sunday column this week. I see that the abortion rate, once testing positive for suspected Downs, is 91-93% in most western countries so it’s not just an Enzed reaction. If we could eradicate all severe disabilities from humankind then that would be a good thing: save much suffering and heartache. The mapping of the genome project opens that door to improving future human health.”
Accurate information is important. In New Zealand around half of our pregnant women don’t even test for Down syndrome. Of the half that does test, accurate numbers that choose to abort are not known. We do, of course, have many supporters in New Zealand who had positive tests and continued with their pregnancies.
Suggesting that parents don’t want children with Down syndrome is incorrect and hurtful to millions of families. It lowers the dignity of all of our loved ones who have Down syndrome.
There are no Down syndrome organisations in New Zealand that “want to deny this test” (in reference to prenatal screening tests).
The view that eradicating Down syndrome would be “a bloody fantastic achievement” offends the most basic principles of human rights, which recognise the inherent dignity and value of all human life without discrimination. Promoting the eradication of people with Down syndrome from society is eugenics and has no place in civilised society.
People with Down syndrome are to be afforded basic human respect on an equal basis with all members of our society.
Laws has also publically stated:
“I will continue to support the right of women to test for DS (in fact, I will encourage it) and to abort if they test positive”.
Saving Downs is concerned that encouraging screening and abortions for Down syndrome may breach Ministry of Health policy, the Health and Disability Code of Rights and the relevant provisions of the Crimes Act. We have lodged a formal complaint with the Whanganui District Health Board regarding his position on the board.
We have also formally raised our concerns in this matter with the Disability Commissioner and the Minister for Disability issues.
We have no desire to direct further attention towards Laws’ views other than addressing any false information that is being messaged.
Our focus remains, as always, on upholding dignity, love and respect for our children without discrimination.
Watch the interview on TVNZ here – http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/michael-laws-sparks-anger-over-down-syndrome-comment-video-5776399