I’ve sat in front of my computer screen debating just how to start this topic, or whether I even should because I’m about to ruffle some feathers. But this blog isn’t here to magically align with everyone’s beliefs, and I refuse to shy away from controversy just to avoid offense, so I’ve decided to power through and get my thoughts down here. It’s not to make myself feel better, but to educate the public about what I see as an emerging civil rights issue, and one that affects my family deeply. You see, I am and always have been pro-choice, but everything I thought I knew and believed in regarding a woman’s right to choose has been turned on its head since entering the Down syndrome community. I know to most outsiders this may seem like a strange connection, but abortion and Ds are closely intertwined and becoming even more so with the advent of noninvasive prenatal testing.
When I was pregnant with both my boys, I remember being offered first trimester screening, which included blood tests and ultrasounds to check for chromosomal abnormalities. Because we wanted as little intervention as possible, we declined these tests and continued the pregnancies as normal. Had I done these screenings, they would have likely raised a red flag with Quinn and I would have been referred for more tests. For most women, this would be an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), both of which are invasive, painful, and slightly risky. They do, however, carry a rather high accuracy rate in detecting chromosomal anomalies like Down syndrome or other trisomies. Since we opted out of the first screening, we never detected anything unusual until Quinn’s anatomy scan at 20 weeks. This is when the ultrasound technician noticed his slightly enlarged kidneys and referred us to a genetic counselor.
In the end, we chose to carry our little man to term, but not entirely for reasons you would expect. To terminate a pregnancy at 24 weeks (which was where we were once all diagnostic results were in) meant an induction of labor and a full vaginal delivery. I would see my baby and he would not be breathing. And it would be my fault. I knew that would be an image that I could never erase from my mind, even if I lived to be 102. So I chose life. It was my choice.