Are Portlanders Rethinking Aborting Children with Down Syndrome?

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 05/07/2019

For more than a decade, I’ve been training Oregon Right to Life students in the art of pro-life persuasion and taking them to the streets of Portland to practice their skills with people who disagree. To begin conversations with passersby, we use a survey tool that asks simple yes or no questions. One of those questions is, “Should abortion be against the law if the fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome?”

As one would imagine, Portlanders have overwhelmingly answered no to this question over the years. Abortion is a right, in their mind. They believe there should be few to no reasons why abortion should be restricted.

This year was different. Many of the students came back with surveys where people who identified as “pro-choice” were opposed to abortion when the fetus is presumed to have Down syndrome. In fact, several Portlanders were bothered by the thought of this.

I’m obviously not suggesting that this was a controlled survey, was representative of Portlanders, was large enough to detect such changes, or had any statistical significance. Not even close. That’s never been the point of the survey. It was simply interesting to anecdotally note a difference in our experience from previous years.

It made me wonder whether 2017’s news story that told of Iceland’s push to “eliminate” Down syndrome had caused some people to reconsider their view. Iceland wasn’t actually doing anything to prevent Down syndrome. They were simply killing any unborn child who was likely to have it through abortion.

Whatever the reason, if there is a trend towards being against abortion when the unborn child has Down syndrome, it’s a trend worth welcoming.