Last night I volunteered at the Special Olympics Virginia Winter Games Opening Ceremony. It's my third year working the souvenir stand as a "SOVA" volunteer. Nearly everyone there, with the exception of a few exhausted parents, was walking around with a huge smile. Every year I am impressed with all that these athletes can do. For these Winter Games, the athletes figure skate, speed skate (!), bowl, and do gymnastics -- and pretty much all of them are better at those sports than I am. When they come to the souvenir stand, they communicate well, properly count money and use credit cards, and are just teeming with charisma.
I have a cousin, Patrick, with Down Syndrome. He loves to dance, bowl, and watch the Three Stooges. He was the life of the party at our wedding, staying on the dance floor even when everyone else was taking a breather. Growing up with Patrick as a part of the family showed me not to be afraid of someone who was different. But not everyone has that advantage.
When I hear of someone who is considering terminating a pregnancy only because the fetus has tested positive for Down Syndrome, it makes me very sad. I recently read that over 90% of pregnancies are terminated when a fetus tests positive via amniocentesis for Down Syndrome. If the potential parents had ever known someone with Downs, I think they would be much less likely to make the decision to end the pregnancy. With good education, health care, and support, many kids with Down Syndrome live a normal life, or close to it. And it's worth mentioning that a fetus that tests "normal" may have far worse issues down the road -- there is no way to know. It's never a sure thing.
In the wild, a sick or abnormal animal is typically abandoned by the pack. Nature is hard, and life is cheap. What makes us human is that we have the ability to rise above nature's cruel reality.
Whether we choose to do so is another question.
More information on the Special Olympics Virginia
More information on the Special Olympics international organization