Archive for Friday, November 30, 2007

U.S. Sens. Brownback, Kennedy collaborate on Down syndrome bill

November 30, 2007


— 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."


Confrontation 7 years, 12 months ago

Everyone send your Down Syndrome babies to Brownback. He has the money to care for them. Considering he's not doing his own job, he also has the time to care for them.

Kathy Theis-Getto 7 years, 12 months ago

This is not about abortion - but about a woman's informed choice, which is, thank goodness, protected by law.

cap10_insano 7 years, 12 months ago

its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says:

I wish Brownback's compassion would extend to the current and future victims of Parkinsons and other diseases that could benefit from embryonic stem cell research. If he indeed runs for Governor, he is going to have to come face to face with some of these victims.

Kill a baby to save Marty McFly?

I don't think so. Marty McFly made a maggot out of himself with his commercial a while back. Shaking and jerking on cue because of the 'effect'.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 12 months ago

The problem is that one form of stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research, requires living human embryos to be killed for their stem cells. It is not prolife to kill one group of human beings in the hope of treating or curing another group of human beings. The prolife position recognizes that every innocent human life regardless of size, strength and location is valuable and deserving of protection.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 12 months ago

Embryonic research advocates act like all of the embryos currently frozen in fertility clinics will be thrown away. This, however, is simply not the case. The parents generally have at least two other options. First, preserve the embryos for possible future attempts at pregnancy (chosen by about 90 percent according to a study by the RAND corporation). Second, donate the embryos to another couple struggling with infertility so they can have children.

denak 7 years, 12 months ago

It is unfortunate, that yet again, this thread has spiraled downward into an "abortion" debate.

It misses the whole point of the bill in my opinion.

Not to long ago, parents of babies who were born with DS were told to put their children in an institution and give up. These parents had to fight extremely hard to educate individuals just so that their children would be able to attend regular school. Individuals with DS were, at one time, denied the right to marry or were extremely discouraged if they wanted to get married. Now, they can.

As a woman who is a carrier for a genetic form of blindess and who passed it on to her son, I am, on one hand, appalled that we would even make this information known to the birth parents. I really see no reason for this. There is no real way for these birth parents to make an "informed" decision because they don't know the child. Having a child with a severe disability presents A LOT of challenges, but it is tempered by the love you fill for the child. It never is as bad as your imagination. And that is what these parents are going to hear from all the relatives and good neighbors who have never known a child with DS or another disability. Or the person who "means well" but scares the heck out of the parents by telling them about the child that they knew that had DS way back when they were growing up in the 50's. The parents are going to think that their child is going to have the same kind of life and it isn't true.

Not only are there federal laws to protect those with disabilities (ADA and IDEA) but we making increadible advances in teaching children with autism, vision and hearing impairments, down syndrome and other "challenges" to become healthy adults. To be able to break down barriers that a generation ago, we wouldn't have been able to do.

My father went to the Kansas State School for the Blind. My son goes to KSSB. My father is amazed at what they can teach the kids today that they couldn't teach them in the 50's because we have learned how to do it. When my father entered the workforce in the early 60's, blind people were shunted into factories. Now we have blind people who are in jobs we never thought possible.

I think it is good that doctors will give a more comprehensive analysis but it is my opinon, that a lot of doctors don't know what they are talking about. The bill should go further to provide a social worker to the couple who can get them involved with organizations that deal with the particular disability on a day to day basis. Let them see first hand the joy and love these children bring. That would do more than this bill. And, in the end, I do think it would reduce abortions because it would really give the parent(s) something to base their decision on. Let them see the reality and the reality isn't even remotely close to whatever horror they can think up.


cap10_insano 7 years, 12 months ago


Even Marty McFly admitted his actions were over the top when Rush Limbaugh called him out on it. So your pitty party is a bust.

cap10_insano 7 years, 12 months ago

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Kathy Theis-Getto 7 years, 12 months ago

No, artichoke, you are not telling the entire story here. Read this and reconsider you stance:

The disposal of almost all of the embryos results, or will result, in their death. Yet, even though the pro-life movement regards all embryos as human persons, pro-lifer leaders seem to be mainly concerned about the few dozen embryos which have been killed by having their stem cells extracted. There seems to be little or no concern over the many hundreds of thousands of embryos which have been killed or which will eventually die in IVF clinics.

How surplus embryos are processed: There are only two options for the surplus embryos -- those that are not implanted in the woman's uterus:

Most often, the spare embryos are deep-frozen in liquid nitrogen. This is called "cryopreservation." Of the 232 labs who returned surveys to a government survey, 215 (94.7%) have the equipment to preserve embryos.

Their fate is mixed: Some die during the freezing process;
Some die while they are subsequently thawed. They may eventually die because of operator error or equipment malfunction. If the original attempt at IVF fails to produce a pregnancy, then some embryos may be thawed out and a second implantation attempted. Probably about three out of four of these thawed embryos will die without developing into a fetus. Probably fewer than one in four will develop into a fetus and a newborn.
Some embryos will probably lose their ability to induce a pregnancy over time. One source says that about 25% of frozen and thawed embryos do not survive between a first and second impregnation procedure. Another source says that some frozen embryos might survive for decades.

Kathy Theis-Getto 7 years, 12 months ago


On the order of 9,000 of the 400,000 embryos preserved in cryogenic freezers in American fertility clinics are available for use by other couples. As of 2003-AUG, 31 embryos have been successfully implanted in the uterus of unrelated women, and were later born. Fourteen more are expected to be born by the end of 2003. These are often called "snowflake babies" by pro-life groups. 4

Those embryos that are not preserved in liquid nitrogen will inevitably die. They have no chance of living or developing into a newborn. Many clinics simply discard or destroy them. Some embryos are simply flushed down a sink drain while alive. Some are transferred to a medical waste bin where they are later incinerated, while alive. Some simply expose the embryos to the air and let them die naturally; this normally takes up to four days. Still other embryos are donated for research and experimentation, for personnel training, or for diagnostic purposes. At this stage in their development, they fortunately have no brain, no central nervous system, no pain sensors, no consciousness, no awareness of their environment. Thus, no matter by which method they are disposed, they will feel no discomfort.

Government survey: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention operate a Laboratory practice Assessment Branch in Chamblee, GA. They contracted with Analytical Sciences Inc. to conduct a survey to determine what procedures were used by IVF (In-vitro Fertilization) fertility clinics in the U.S. The goal was to help develop a set "of quality standards specifically designed to assure the quality performance of embryo laboratory procedures" at Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) laboratories. 232 valid responses were returned in mid-1998. 1

Many dozens of of questions were asked of these IVF/ART labs in the survey. Of particular interest is Item 79. It outlines what happens to those embryos which are neither implanted nor deep-frozen.

About half of the IVF labs reported that they immediately discarded these embryos, presumably while they were still alive. About the same number simply allow them to die and then discard them.

The ART Embryo Laboratory Survey reported the data in the table below. Note that the data list the number and percentages of labs which follow these procedure. We have been unable to find data on the actual numbers of embryos which are disposed of in these ways:

You can' thave it both ways - either you are a prolife wingnut, or you're not.

cap10_insano 7 years, 12 months ago


So according to you one 'must' be black or white on this issue. hmmm,

According to your logic as applied to other medical practices if a person is severely retarded then organ harvesting is ethically ok?

Life will eventually result in a persons death. When is it ok to harvest organs/tissue? We know a 10 year old is going to eventually die, if that 10 year old is a 60 IQ and won't contribute much to society, (will be a drain on society) why not conduct medical research on him/her? Why not harvest an organ for that cystic fibrosis child with an IQ of 130. It serves the greater good? Or does it?

Marty McFly is a celebrity, in his name young human offspring should be destroyed so he has the hope of possibly living an additional 10, 20 or 30 years.

Your ethics need checking.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 12 months ago

Nice cut and paste Valkarie of Doom. Next time think for yourself or do not address my posts.

There are programs like Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program and National Embryo Donation Center available which match couples looking to adopt with other couples who are the biological parents of frozen embryos. This option allows couples struggling with infertility to give birth to a newborn child while at the same time giving a human embryo the chance to be born. Advocates of human embryonic stem cell research claim all of these "leftover" embryos will be "thrown away," but prolife citizens across the country know better. The smallest members of our human family can develop into infants, toddlers and adults if they are given the chance.

It is theorized that embryos from fertilization clinics will be used for the initial experiments. However, some in the biotechnology community have anticipated the supply of embryos from clinics won't be enough for their research. This is where human cloning for research (often labeled "therapeutic cloning" by its proponents) enters the picture. During a Congressional Committee hearing, a representative of Biotechnology Industry Organization said the cloning of human embryos for research is "a critical and necessary step in the production of sufficient quantities of vigorous replacement cells for the clinical treatment of patients."

Kathy Theis-Getto 7 years, 12 months ago

No, conservativeman, my ethics are just fine, sir. You twist my words to fit your scewed logic. I was merely pointing out that fertility clincs destroy embryos, which you consider to be a human. They incinerate tham while alive - expose them to air to die a horrible death, and so on. So, I will repeat warmer's question and let's see if you can answer it this time without the personal attack. Betcha can't.

"Why don't you and Cap and friends ever conduct your protests at fertility clinics where tens of thousands of embyros get flushed down the toilet (incinerated, exposed to air, etc.)?"

Amy Heeter 7 years, 12 months ago

Another pointless rant from Valkarie of Doom.

Kathy Theis-Getto 7 years, 12 months ago

artichoke - who died and made you the comptroller of this forum? I will address any posts I feel warrant addressing. As for cut and paste, dear, at least I cite my source - as opposed to your blatent plagarism.

I am certain there are many clinics that do all they can to preserve the unused embryos as the article I cited stated, the fact remains, many are destroyed, so why is there no outrage for what you consider a human life?

Kathy Theis-Getto 7 years, 12 months ago

artichoke - one should cite their sources. Interesting that I entered the first line of your post, and guess what? It was taken from this source - verbatim:

Amy Heeter 7 years, 12 months ago

I wrote the book Valkyrie of doom.
Not so warm Anyone who has a family member with Parkinsons should place them in an institution if they can't handle being a care giver or better yet I hear Dr. Death was released from prison call him.

All my support gores to zygotes.

cap10_insano 7 years, 12 months ago

Valkerie, Wrong. Your illogic was self evident. No twisting was required. You lack the moral compass to be ethical.

IGW, So when is experimentation no longer limited to embryos? When a 10 year olds tissue holds promise of a cure do you prescribe to taking that life for one you value? When does it end? Your ethics were shared by a group we had a trial for in Nurenburg. You and val have a selfish set of ethics, elitists.

ForThePeople 7 years, 12 months ago

Anonymous user

artichokeheart (Anonymous) says:

I wrote the book Valkyrie of doom. Not so warm Anyone who has a family member with Parkinsons should place them in an institution if they can't handle being a care giver or better yet I hear Dr. Death was released from prison call him.

All my support gores to zygotes.

WTF? The article is about DS, not Parkinsons! What's up arti...looking for someone new to stalk? AND, people with down's, DO NOT belong in institutions! With the right care, they are able to function in society just fine! It's folks like yourself, with MENTAL ILLNESSES that belong in institutions!

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