The promotion of targeted abortion and other practices mean U.N. member states and agencies are not serious about protecting people with Down syndrome, the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations has said.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza on March 20 decried “the eugenic trend of ending the lives of the unborn who show some form of imperfection.”
Despite international conventions protecting the disabled, including their right to life, “so many members of the international community stand on the sidelines as the vast majority of those diagnosed with Trisomy-21 have their lives ended before they’re even born,” the archbishop said in a side event at the U.N. in New York City.
“Rather than stop it, some in the international community are abetting it,” he charged.
He cited a U.N. Human Rights Committee member who said during an official meeting that if a woman is told her unborn child has Down syndrome or some other permanent handicap, “it should be possible for her to resort to abortion to avoid the handicap as a preventive measure.” Defending those with disabilities, this committee member said, “does not mean that we have to accept to let a disabled fetus live.”
“Is such a position consistent with the U.N.’s concern to leave no one behind and to protect the rights of those with disabilities?” the archbishop asked.
Archbishop Auza heads the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, which sponsored a side event to for World Down Syndrome Day ahead of its March 21 observance.
The side event, held during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, considered questions such as “Are girls and boys with Down Syndrome being left behind?” and whether homes, rural villages and cities have room for those with Down syndrome.
Auza cited then-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s March 21, 2012 remarks reaffirming that people with Down syndrome are entitled to full human rights and freedoms.
“Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down Syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others,” Ban said. “Let us build an inclusive society for all.”
According to Archbishop Auza, Pope Francis has countered eugenic trends targeting the unborn by advocating authentic love.
“(N)ot that false, saccharine and sanctimonious love, but that which is true, concrete and respectful,” the Pope said in Oct. 21, 2017 remarks. “To the extent that one is accepted and loved, included in the community and supported in looking to the future with confidence, the true path of life evolves and one experiences enduring happiness.”
Archbishop Auza cited a U.S. television show’s claim that Iceland was on the verge of “eliminating” Down syndrome, meaning the elimination of people with Down syndrome. The show said 100 percent of parents of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome chose abortion. This is almost the case in other countries, a phenomenon which some critics have called “genocide.”
“Here at the United Nations there is much sincere talk and normally passionate action to fight against any form of discrimination,” Auza said, specifically citing work to end discrimination against women and the disabled. The 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he noted, seeks to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities,” including those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
“But as firm as these commitments are in principle, in practice many states, U.N. agencies and members of civil society tolerate gross violations of these commitments,” he lamented. “The international community says that it wants to leave no one behind and to defend the rights and equality of women and girls, for example, but then refuses to do anything when data show that the youngest girls are being systematically discriminated against in the womb, as in the case of sex selective abortion.”
The archbishop cited studies that indicate up to 160 million unborn girls have been targeted for abortion.
“The inconsistency, however, is even more pronounced when we turn to what is happening with those prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome,” he said.
The Holy See’s permanent observer mission co-sponsored the event with the Pujols Family Foundation, the Center for Family and Human Rights, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, and the film “Summer in the Forest,” which will be released soon.