Tag archives: Down Syndrome

Celebrating Life on World Down Syndrome Day

by Joy Zavalick , Kurt Kondrich

March 21, 2022

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, and West Virginia has kicked off the celebration with a new life-saving protection for the unborn. In a race against the clock on the last day of the 2022 session, the state legislature passed SB 468, known as the Unborn Child with Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act. The popular bill passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 81-17 and the Senate by a vote of 27-5. By passing SB 468, which is slated to go into effect on July 1, the state of West Virginia is reminding the nation of the precious gift that those with Down syndrome are to the world.

On Monday, Chloe Kondrich joined Gov. Jim Justice (R) at the West Virginia state capitol to witness the signing of SB 468 into law. For weeks, Chloe had been meeting with members of the West Virginia state congress to advocate for SB 468. Chloe, an 18-year-old advocate for life who has Down syndrome, successfully lobbied for Chloe’s Law in Pennsylvania at the age of 11 to ensure that parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are made aware of the resources available to help their child thrive. There is extensive evidence that families of those with Down syndrome recognize the blessing that their loved one is; the bigger challenge is helping the rest of the world to affirm it.

Unfortunately, ignorance and fearmongering directed towards pregnant mothers lead to immense loss of life for babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. In the United States, an estimated 67 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Paradoxically, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), which claims to be “the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome,” includes the possibility of “termination” as one of its top three reasons why a mother should undergo prenatal testing to determine if her child has Down syndrome.

Unfortunately, despite the many advocates fighting to protect the lives and human dignity of those with Down syndrome, some persist in maintaining discriminatory attitudes. On March 3, World Birth Defects Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) included Down syndrome in its list of the top “most common severe birth defects.” The WHO faced immense backlash on social media from voices around the world passionately disputing the idea that their loved ones with Down syndrome were “defective.” Chloe Kondrich’s simple response, which was accompanied by a photo of her advocating for life at the West Virginia capitol, spoke volumes: “I am Chloe Emmanuel Kondrich, and I am NOT a ‘severe birth defect.’”

The West Virginia law is not only a commonsense measure to prevent discrimination against babies with Down syndrome, but it also protects any child whose mother seeks an abortion on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis of a disability. The law combats the ableist tendencies of the abortion industry, which capitalizes on parents’ fears and convinces them that they are not equipped to raise a child with a disability.

A prenatal diagnosis should never strip a child of their right to life. This year, the theme of World Down Syndrome Day is “inclusion.” According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, this looks like “full and effective participation and inclusion in society.” True advocates for those with Down syndrome are people like Chloe who are fighting to empower families with resources and education to achieve this goal of inclusion rather than dismissing an entire population as a “birth defect” that ought to be simply “terminated.”

On World Down Syndrome Day, let us reject the ableist killing of babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis. Let us celebrate the inherent value of all human life, beginning in the womb. As West Virginia takes a step forward in protecting its unborn citizens from discrimination, the rest of the nation ought to follow.

Kurt Kondrich is a pro-life advocate who after the birth of his beautiful daughter Chloe in 2003 has devoted his life to ending the prenatal genocide against babies with Down syndrome.

Joy Zavalick is Research Assistant for the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.

At 18, Chloe Kondrich Is Leading the Fight for Disability Rights

by Mary Szoch

October 14, 2021

At Pray Vote Stand Summit last week, Chloe Kondrich joined me on a panel to discuss what the future of life in America could look like in a post-Dobbs world. Even though Chloe is only in high school, she has already accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime. At age 3, with the help of her brother Nolan, Chloe became an avid reader. It has only gone up from there. 

At age 11, Chloe successfully lobbied for the passage of “Chloe’s law,” which requires health care providers to notify women receiving a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis of the full range of resources available for their child. At age 13, Chloe spoke at the United Nations along with her father. The two were so well received, they were brought back for an encore the following year. During the pro-life Trump administration, Chloe met both the president and Vice President Pence, and (as she told the audience at Pray Vote Stand) President Trump gave her a kiss on the head. Chloe’s picture with Vice President Pence hung in the West Wing.

Now at age 18, Chloe, who has Down syndrome, travels all over the world with her dad advocating for the right to life of all people, but specifically people with Down syndrome. She is a woman of few words—and plenty of smiles. 

Chloe brings out the best in everyone, and when you are around her, it is impossible not to wish more people were as positive, joyful, and kind as Chloe. As her dad said, “Chloe will have a mansion in heaven, and I’ll sweep the driveway.” 

Sadly, not all of Chloe’s efforts to advocate for the unborn are successful. In the United States, 67 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Across the globe, the situation is even worse. In Iceland, people with Down syndrome are extremely rare, not because the disease has been eradicated but because the people prenatally diagnosed with it are so rarely allowed to be born. In the U.K, British judges upheld a law that permits babies with Down syndrome to be aborted—and they did this in response to a lawsuit brought by a British woman with Down syndrome.

As Chloe’s dad, Kurt Kondrich (a pro-life advocate who works to pass legislation protecting those with Down syndrome in the womb) said at Pray Vote Stand, “It’s a genocide… When people identify, target, and terminate a human being because they don’t meet the cultural mandates—this culture’s mandate of perfection—it’s the ultimate extreme form of prejudice [and] bigotry. It’s hate. It’s actually capital punishment without even a jury.” 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It is also Respect Life Month. These two things go hand-in-hand. Those of us in the pro-life movement must advocate for all unborn children in the womb—especially those who are being targeted for extinction. 

This month (and every month, for that matter), if there is someone in your community who has Down syndrome, I encourage you to get to know that person. Invite that person to go for a walk, play a sport, or just hang out. If there’s a local business that employs people with Down syndrome, make an effort to patronize that business. Coffee is always better if it comes with a smile. If the Christian school your son or daughter attends does not have any students with special needs, advocate for the school to have inclusive classrooms. Inclusive education benefits all students—not just those who have disabilities. Finally, prayerfully consider whether God might be calling your family to adopt a child with special needs. That child will quickly become the best part of your family

If everyone knew someone like Chloe, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome would no longer be a death sentence. It would be an announcement that another person who has a unique ability to be joyful, loving, and kind—while simultaneously encouraging others to be more joyful, loving, and kind themselves—is entering the world. What a lucky world.

Chasing Perfection

by Anna Higgins

October 17, 2013

Perfection is a ghost. Many of us pursue it all our lives in our own strength, only to find it unattainable. We keep our faults hidden and run from those who are less than our image of “perfection.” This attitude can be deadly.

Most of us are woefully ignorant of the fact that the “imperfect” — children with disabilities — are targeted for elimination prior to birth. Over 90% of preborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. This staggering statistic reveals that as a society, we have done little to protect the most innocent among us. We have neglected to take a stand for those with no voice and neglected to teach our children that people with differences are just as valuable as anyone else and deserve protection and respect.

It is heart-wrenching to think that abortion, coupled with the negative attitude towards persons with disabilities, has robbed countless parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and other family members of the joys and challenges of raising and loving a person with Down Syndrome. In our pursuit of perfection, we cast aside parts of ourselves and others that we deem substandard. In so doing, we unknowingly discard life’s most valuable treasures. It is most often in our weaknesses that true grace is revealed.

The apostle Paul revealed in 2 Corinthians that he suffered from what he called “a thorn in the flesh.” Despite Paul’s pleadings, the Lord chose not to remove it from him, but instead display His grace through the weakness. Paul responds in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Without that “thorn,” Paul may have never experienced the fullness of that grace and strength.

ESPN recently posted an “E:60” video on YouTube highlighting the story of Heath White, competitive runner and Air Force pilot, who was faced a few years ago with the news that his unborn child had Down Syndrome. Heath, who was accustomed to setting and achieving lofty goals, candidly admits his desire to abort the child who he knew would be less than “perfect.” His wife also describes her struggle in wanting to keep her baby and save her marriage. The result was a change of heart for Heath, embodied in an emotional and inspiring letter he wrote to his daughter, Paisley. His bold honesty and acceptance of Paisley is encouraging and counter-cultural. He came to the realization that Paisley is just like every other kid — worthy of love and acceptance. Their story is one of deep pain, resilience, and beauty.

Perfection existed only in one person, Jesus Christ. It is through Him that we are made whole. Jesus often chooses the weak to instruct the strong, and the words of children to teach those who are wise in their own eyes. I pray that we can learn to cherish what we consider “imperfect” and learn to live contentedly in the amazing grace offered by Christ alone.

The Love of Anne de Gaulle”

by Robert Morrison

December 19, 2011

FRC staff, visitors, and friends on the Web had an extraordinary opportunity this week to hear a lecture by Leticia Velasquez. Mrs. Velasquez is the mother of a Down Syndrome child. She spoke movingly of her experiences and how she viewed this child as a special blessing from God. Nurses told her eight years ago, “we regret to inform you that…” It started off that coldly, that clinically. “Mongolita,” her husband told her, using the Spanish word for Mongoloid. But Leticia is a feisty New Yorker. She answered back: “This beloved child will never shoot up her school or do drugs.” And she’s right about that.

Sitting in the audience, I remembered my first encounter with this subject. I was a graduate student reading the biography of Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle had then only recently retired as President of the Fifth Republic of France.

A military hero during World War I, de Gaulle at 6‘5” towered over most of his countrymen, both figuratively and literally. In the interwar years, Col. de Gaulle taught at Saint-Cyr, the French military academy, and was an outspoken advocate for tank warfare. His theories were considered too radical, and he was shunted aside. Only in 1940, did de Gaulle see his ideas put to devastating use—by the Nazis panzers as they plowed through the Ardennes forest. While the divided French Cabinet argued about whether to surrender or keep fighting, the newly promoted Gen. de Gaulle escorted a British friend to the airport outside threatened Paris. Then, without so much as a toothbrush, he closed the door to the aircraft and flew to England. He watched from the air as the battered French towns below burst into flames. His own wife and daughter Anne were down there.

He rallied the French people with a speech delivered over the BBC. And he led the Free French throughout the war. Afterward, he briefly led the government before going into retirement. But in 1958, France was wracked with internal divisions over Algeria, communism, and much else. Called out of retirement, Charles de Gaulle became President of France. He re-wrote the constitution, creating the Fifth Republic that governs France to this day. In World War II, he restored French honor after the debacle of Hitler’s invasion and occupation. As President, he sought to make France respected again throughout the world.

Retiring for a second time in 1969, de Gaulle was asked by an interviewer what gave him the courage, the stamina, and the vision to fight so hard for his country. Unhesitatingly, he answered: “The love of Anne de Gaulle.”

As a student, I was puzzled. But I soon found out what he meant. Anne was born with Downs Syndrome. Charles and his wife Yvonne raised Anne at home. What’s so unusual about that? At that time, most of France’s upper classes, and certainly most ambitious military figures, would quietly place such a daughter in a convent school, where loving and devoted nuns would care for her. There would be visits several times a year, of course, but the child would effectively be banished from the family.

Not the de Gaulles. They rearranged their entire domestic life around the need to love and care for Anne. And Anne returned that love in abundance. One of the most moving scenes I ever read showed Charles and Yvonne standing at the gravesite in a small country churchyard in Colombey Les Deux Eglises. Embracing his grieving wife, the world leader said: “Now she is like all the others.”

As an historian, I’m often asked why it is we don’t seem to have leaders on the world stage who are like the giant figures of World War II. In France today, 96% of unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are killed. In the U.S., it is 92%. These lethal rates are even higher among the elites from whose ranks we draw our leaders. Might it be that we no longer produce leaders who can love as unconditionally as the de Gaulles? Anne’s love inspired and motivated one of the greatest leaders of the Twentieth Century. Perhaps we need more such lovers. And more capacity to love.

Not to Miss: “A Special Mother is Born” Book-signing Event Next Week

by Family Research Council

November 10, 2011

Leticia Velasquez, author of the recently published “A Special Mother is Born” on parenting a child with special needs, will be Washington, D.C. for a book signing, on Tuesday, November 15th, at 12:30p at the Catholic Information Center: 1501 K Street, NW.

Leticia is a wife and mother of three daughters, one with Down Syndrome. She writes professionally, has her own blog, Cause of Our Joy and is a co-founder of the support group, Keeps Infants With Down Syndrome (KIDS).

A Special Mother is Born” is a beautiful anthology of stories from parents with children who have special needs. Contributors include Rick Santorum, Mary Kellet and Dr. Gerry Nadal, among others. This will be an opportunity (and a book) you will not want to miss.