Thursday, July 5, 2012

Group Challenges Down Syndrome Testing

The International Criminal Court is set to launch a formal preliminary examination into the New Zealand Government's antenatal Down syndrome screening programme.
Saving Down’s, the group who filed the complaint, says the Government programme devalues the lives of their children and that's a form of persecution.
Taya, Dylan and Molly are friends, all with Down syndrome, born with an extra 21st chromosome.
Dylan’s mother, Janine Bezencon, says bringing up a child with Down syndrome is “an absolute joy”.
“I really mean that with all my heart.”
A group of other parents, known as Saving Down's, agree and have taken the Government to the International Criminal Court for its antenatal Down syndrome screening programme.
“We have got pregnant women going to their midwives,” says Mike Sullivan, father of three-year-old Down-affected Rebecca. “They've got a wanted pregnancy. They're being given the opportunity to engage in a testing programme that selects that child on the basis of its genetic difference and that's a practice of eugenics and that's prohibited under international law.”
Last year they filed a complaint with the ICC at The Hague, which usually deals with war crimes. They've now learnt the court has decided to go ahead with a formal preliminary examination, making it one of only eight cases worldwide.
“This is unprecedented,” says Mr Sullivan. “They've got a result after a thorough legal analysis of the situation. It means the prosecutors accept that there are merits and concerns with the information raised by the court.”
More information will now be tabled and further discussions held between the prosecutor’s office and the New Zealand Government. 
Saving Down’s hopes this will eventually lead to the end of the programme, but what if it doesn't?
“They'll be a dying breed pretty much,” says Ms Bezencon. “That will be a real shame.”
The Ministry of Health says New Zealand’s antenatal screening programme is in line with others overseas. 
But Saving Down’s says that if they can stop the programme here they can use it as a precedent to stop programmes in other countries.

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