March 21, World Down Syndrome Day
Thursday, March 21, 2019

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), a date that symbolizes the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome, and is a day to raise awareness, celebrate individuals around the world who have Down syndrome, and honor their inherent value and contributions to society.

The theme for WDSD 2019 is “Leave no one behind”, echoing the theme of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Jérôme Lejeune Foundation—with support from Poland, the Philippines, Argentina, Lithuania, Panama and Malta— hosted an event in Geneva during the 37th session of the UN Human Right Council on the theme: “Persons with Down syndrome: Towards better practices in fighting discrimination and favoring inclusion”. Down Syndrome International (DSI) and like-minded NGOs are lobbying at the United Nations in New York for education that includes the needs of children with Down syndrome.

President of the European Parliament (EP), Antonio Tajani opened an event at the EP organized by MEP Miroslav Mikolášik (Slovakia) as part of the Down Syndrome Day campaign. The event was to “raise awareness and to adopt a common position in favor of rights, social inclusion and general life improvement of people with Down syndrome across the European Union institutions and the Member States.”

According to Mikolášik’s Facebook account, the event not only included testimonies from individuals with Down syndrome but “colleagues who came to support the topic” and “experts, doctors, researchers, scientists, representatives of the European Commission, the pharmaceutical sector and the Jerome Lejeuen Institute in Paris.”

President Tajani tweeted his support, “We leave nobody behind! Inclusion is what people with Down syndrome need. We as lawmakers must create an environment that accommodates their needs. #WorldDownSyndromeDay #Reasonstocelebrate #Leavenoonebehind #WSD19 #WSD2019

The World Youth Alliance Europe is also engaged in the campaign at the EP that seeks to raise 50 million euro for Down syndrome research to reduce disability and improve independence and inclusion. The Jerome Lejeuen Foundation is one of the main funders of research on Down syndrome and for nearly 25 years has funded 700 research projects all over the world to advance respect for human life from its very beginning. The foundation shared one of the messages delivered at the EP on its Facebook page:

Fondation Jérôme Lejeune

"I love my life very much! " share the beautiful message of Emmanuel, young man carrier of down syndrome 21, pronounced at the European Parliament on the occasion of world syndrome day 21.
" I serve coffees to people and it makes me happy. I may be disabled but I have a job and I am a happy man! (...) today, you can decide to finance the research to help us!!!

Awareness campaigns that led to action are tragically necessary as a the number of unborn babies with Down syndrome around the world who are “left behind”/eliminated is growing, due in large measure to advances in prenatal diagnosis technology and access to abortion. Rates are as high as 90-92%, and even 98% in some European countries, while the U.S. reports about 67% of Down syndrome unborn babies are killed by abortion.

State legislatures in the U.S. are reacting to this discrimination by advancing laws to protect children in the womb identified as having a disability. This week, Kentucky’s Governor Matt Bevin signed into law legislation banning on all abortions done on the basis of unborn baby’s race, gender or disability. Under the new law, doctors would have to verify that the woman seeking an abortion was not doing so on account of race, sex, national origin or disability of the child, and if found in violation, could face felony prosecution.  

“Demanding the right to extinguish or eliminate the life of an unborn child because of their gender, race or possible physical or mental disability is reminiscent of the evil social philosophy of eugenics,” said Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, the bill’s sponsor. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately filed suit against the law, but Governor Bevin is prepared to fight to defend the new law. “Kentucky will always fight for life,” the Governor tweeted.

The Arkansas Senate also voted to pass a ban on abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis by a vote of 29-2, advancing the bill to the House. Similarly, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill last month to ban abortions due to a Down syndrome diagnosis. The measure was approved by a vote of 54-15 vote and is now before the Utah Senate.  

Legislators in Pennsylvania (PA) introduced a bill this week to ban abortions for Down syndrome. The proposed legislation would expand the state’s Abortion Control Act which prohibits abortions based on gender to also include Down syndrome. PA lawmakers announced the bill at a press conference that also featured individuals with Down syndrome and their families. “We are here to ensure that every life has dignity and worth—especially those with Down syndrome,” said Rep Kate Klunk. Chloe’s Foundation is one of the organizations lobbying for the bill as it seeks to "Embrace don't erase Down Syndrome”.

Despite the progress of these laws, they still face looming legal challenges spearheaded by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. This month, Ohio’s new law protecting unborn babies with Down syndrome was blocked and deemed a violation of privacy by a federal judge.  "It violates the right to privacy of every woman in Ohio and is unconstitutional on its face," wrote Justice Timothy Black. Indiana’s similar law in 2016 was also ruled unconstitutional in 2017.

PNCI extends its heartfelt appreciation to all legislators working to protect the right to life of unborn babies with Down syndrome or other disabilities and encourages everyone to raise awareness of the value and dignity of every human life, no matter the differences.  

One way to show your support is to “rock your socks” and wear mismatched or crazy socks today! #RockYourSocks.#LotsOfSocks #LeaveNoOneBehind #WDSD19 #wouldntchangeathing #WDSD19Badge #CelebratingDifference @DSAInfo