Washington Denise Sawyer didn't find out her second child had Down syndrome until after Ana was born.
Still, the Mulvane, Kan., special education teacher says she never would have considered terminating her pregnancy, even if a prenatal test had revealed Ana's condition.
"I could have had the test, but I didn't want it because I knew that it wouldn't have mattered," Sawyer said. "I would have had this baby anyway. What she has given us in our lives is a new perspective."
But Sawyer's view is not typical of most parents who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Doctors estimate that 80 percent to 90 percent of women who learn they are carrying a fetus with the genetic disorder decide not to have the child.
That could change if Congress passes a bill that is an unusual collaboration between Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., lawmakers with diametrically opposite views on abortion.
The measure would require doctors to offer more comprehensive medical information about Down syndrome when parents receive a positive test, including facts about life expectancy, referrals to support networks and options for caring for children with the condition.
The bill is a response to some reports that health professionals often focus only on the most negative aspects of Down syndrome when they counsel patients, ignoring the potential for people with Down syndrome to lead positive, independent lives.
For Brownback, a longtime abortion opponent, the bill represents a small step toward ending the practice.
"Here's a chance to advance the cause and have fewer children killed," Brownback said. "I'll partner with anybody we can, whether they're pro-life or pro-choice, if we can move that agenda forward."
From Kennedy's perspective, though, the legislation is simply about providing more information about a condition many parents know little about. Kennedy's late sister, Rosemary, was born with mental illness and another sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics.
"One of the hardest moments in the life of an expectant mother is when she receives news that she is going to have a child with special needs," Kennedy said. "Access to the best support and information about the condition, and the quality of life for a child born with that condition, can make all the difference to a woman trying to make an informed and difficult decision."
Kennedy, a prominent champion of abortion rights, does not mention abortion in his support of the bill, and it does not appear to trouble abortion-rights groups.
"Unlike other legislation Senator Brownback sponsors, this measure does not include anti-choice rhetoric or policy provisions that would harm women's health," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Keenan said the bill appears to support pregnant women "without undermining a woman's right to choose."
But Brownback believes it is inconsistent to celebrate the accomplishments of special needs children "once they are outside of the womb, and yet they are destroyed in the womb."