Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Personal Asides: Jay Dohertys Great Mission.
Jay Doherty, president of the City Club of Chicago and probably the most influential Democratic government relations advocate in Illinois, is one of my best friends and it was to him that I bequeathed the City Club of Chicago when I decided to retire from its presidency after seventeen straight years. Jay insisted I remain active and that I continue as Chairman which I am happy to do given Jays marvelous leadership that this venerable civic institution. But it is not of the City Club that I write. Some time ago I wrote about the stunningly courageous and farsighted decision of Jay and his wife to welcome into the world their second child who was born with Down syndrome. One of the most memorable events of Lillians and my life was to witness the baptism of the baby and to attend a wonderful christening party at Gibsons where the crème de crème of city society attended (we would never be included except though Jays patronage).
At that event, Mrs. Doherty gave what probably was the most eloquent off-the-cuff sermon on motherhood and parenthood that it was possible to give, saying that every life is truly valuable and that they are indeed blessed to have a child of such beauty and innocence which they were privileged to care for always.
Now there comes via the New York Times the news that is truly bad for children with Down syndrome in that it could spur thousands of deaths each year by abortion. Until this year, only pregnant women age 35 and older have been routinely tested to see if their unbo9ren babies have the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. Many couples were given the diagnosis only at birth. But now under a humanitarian recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and gynecologists says The Times, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women regardless of age.
The Times reports that about 90% of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.
This means a floodtide of deaths of Down syndrome unborn children if the statistics continue. Convinced that more couples would choose to continue their pregnancies if they better appreciated what it means to raise a child with Down syndrome, a growing number of parents is seeking to insert their own positive perspectives into a decision often dominated by daunting medical statistics and doctors who feel obligated to describe the difficulties of life with a disabled child, says The Times.
Many parents see expanded testing as a step toward a society where children like theirs would be unwelcome. The Newsweek columnist George F. Will labeled it a `search and destroy mission for a category of citizens that includes his adult son, Jon Will.
Not long ago a group of parents of Down syndrome children called a meeting at Henry Ford hospital in Detroit to insert their own positive perspectives into a situation that they confrontedand to encourage other parents to continue with the pregnancy and welcome the children when they come with tenderness and love. Says The Times: They are pressing obstetricians to send them couples who have been given a prenatal diagnosis and inviting prospective parents into their homes to meet their children. In Massachusetts, for example, volunteers in a `first call network linking veterasn parents to new ones are now offering support to couples deciding whether to continue a pregnancy.
We want people who make this decision to know our kids, said Lucy Talbot, the president of a support group associated with the hospital. We want them to talk to us.
Apart from ending the life of an unborn child with Down syndrome, it means that the population, now reaching 350,000 could mean less institutional support and reduced funds for medical researchand a lonelier world for those who survive.
I write this to again congratulate the Dohertys on their decision and to point out to prospective parents of Down syndrome their great example, as well as to cite that there is a support system out there which is eager to show how important it is to continue human life in every contingency.