Support all children – pass the Down Syndrome Protection Act
In May 2003, my beautiful daughter, Chloe, was born. Shortly after her birth, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome. During my wife’s pregnancy, we were advised that we were at high risk for having a child with Down syndrome, due to my wife’s age of 40 at the time. We were offered prenatal Down syndrome tests, which we refused, and we loved and treasured our Chloe from the moment of conception.
When Chloe was born, I was serving as a Pittsburgh police officer, and my mission always was to defend and protect, especially the most vulnerable among us. After Chloe’s birth I began speaking to families who had the prenatal Down syndrome tests, and I was shocked to learn that every family I communicated with was advised to terminate the pregnancy once the Down syndrome diagnosis was given. Many were told the child would be a “burden” on their family and unable to function in society. This deeply disturbed me as I watched my daughter grow and become an amazing young lady with many abilities. As a police officer I always sought the facts, and I decided to leave my law enforcement career to advocate for children like Chloe and make sure society was aware of the truth about these awesome individuals.
Chloe and I began making regular trips to the Pennsylvania Capitol to show policymakers how people with Down syndrome can be fully included in schools and communities with the right services. We encouraged bipartisan legislators to invest in these supports so people with Down syndrome could have a great life. I shared videos of Chloe reading at age 3, and told of all the other incredible outreach and activities she was involved with. Chloe plays baseball; attends her neighborhood high school; goes to dances; enjoys church; is manager on two basketball teams; has many friends; likes to go out to eat; adores her brother, Nolan; has received several awards for her advocacy; has been invited to the United Nations twice (due to an extremely high termination rate in Iceland for prenatal Down diagnoses); appears in many media articles and in a book; has met the president and vice president at the White House; has had her picture appear on the big screen in Times Square four times; and has advocated for state legislation (Chloe’s Law) about giving factual, supportive information following a Down diagnosis. Chloe loves life! Does this sound like a person who is a “burden” and unable to function in society?
In 2015, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on all executions in the state because of concerns about the death penalty system. I agree that we must be 100 percent sure a person is guilty of a crime prior to punishment being administered. Innocent children diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome are receiving a death sentence when they are identified, targeted and terminated for not meeting the misguided cultural mandate for unattainable perfection. For people who believe in tolerance, inclusion and acceptance, this prenatal genocide represents the most extreme form of prejudice, profiling, bias, intolerance, bigotry, exclusion and hate. In my 20-year law enforcement career, I never recall seeing or reading about a person with Down syndrome committing an act of violence, malice, hatred or evil. Isn’t this unconditional love, genuine kindness and pure joy exactly what our world needs right now?
I am calling on all Pennsylvania legislators to support the Down Syndrome Protection Act, which will place a moratorium on Down syndrome prenatal abortions and restore an inclusive culture of life where people “embrace, don’t erase” Down syndrome. As prenatal testing rapidly advances, we should all be asking who will be next to receive a prenatal death sentence?
Kurt A. Kondrich, M.Ed, is president of Chloe’s Foundation — and Chloe’s dad. For more information, please see: chloesfoundation.com.