Project leads to heartfelt questionsJAKKI JEFFS
I am beginning to wonder where the heart of our great country has gone.
Two months ago our association joined forces with Concerned Women of America in the downsyndromebrochure.com project. This amazing project has a simple goal: to reach out to couples who have just learned that the baby they are expecting may have Down syndrome.
The project is being spread, by our association, into Canada and is also growing in France. I could never have imagined such a project would be necessary. We have an approximately 90 per cent induced abortion rate in Canada when couples are told that their little one may have Down syndrome. I can understand the immediate fear, grief and shock but I cannot believe parents would reject their own child and that their rejection would mean death for that child. The project consists of a brochure, which we have pledged to distribute to doctors offices, health clinics, hospitals and any establishment that will take them. The brochure brings hope and help to the expectant couple and we are thrilled that the Canadian Down Syndrome Society and the Down Syndrome Research Foundation have agreed to have their contact details listed.
Almost all of us know a family with a member who has Down syndrome. If you happen to be in downtown Guelph, you may see many of these beautiful people on our local transit after spending the day at ARC Industries. As a non-driver, I have spent many hours on our city buses and I can tell you that the friendliest and most compassionate of Guelphites are in the Down syndrome community.
I remember the day I received the news that my 18-year-old nephew had been killed in a motor bicycle accident. I was taking the bus home almost doubled up in grief when I felt an arm on my shoulder and a voice asked me where I hurt? My angel was a person with Down syndrome. My grief and distress was there for all to see yet only this beautiful one entered into it with me.
When I was supply teaching in the late '80s, there was a knock on the staff room door and Anita was standing there. She looked at me and said "Come." I followed her through the hallways until we came across a student crying in the corner on the floor, "Hug her" were Anita's words to me. Other students were walking by oblivious or impervious to her misery, but not Anita.
A Guelph couple, whom I know, were blessed with a big bouncing baby boy a few years ago. He was a welcome addition to a growing family. Their lovely boy had Down syndrome and a health-care worker had apparently been quick to tell the mother she did not have to have the child. When they went home with their baby, some family members could not accept this little chap. Even members of their church looked the other way. What has happened to our hearts that we treat human life like some commodity? If we do not believe it perfect we throw it away.
I have been truly blessed to be acquainted and loved my many folks in the Down syndrome community. I love their candour and simplicity. They look you in the eye and listen to you when you speak to them. When they say, "How are you?" they really want to know. We could learn a lot from those with Down syndrome, their patience, their tenacity to learn when it is more difficult for them than many of us. They recognize and bring out the best in us and I dread to think what kind of a society we are becoming when we can kill a human being just because he is what he is.
I would really encourage you to visit the website www.downsyndromebrochure.com and see the Canadian page. We are better than this.
Jakki Jeffs, "Project leads to heartfelt questions." The Guelph Mercury (June 30, 2009).
Reprinted with permission of Jakki Jeffs.
THE AUTHORMrs. Jakki Jeffs is Executive Director of the Alliance for Life in Ontario.
Copyright © 2009 Jakki Jeffs
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