The story of baby gammy, down syndrome and the world’s view of disability

The story so far is a very sad one, a couple from Australia ‘commission’ a Thai woman of 21 years to carry twins for nine months with the agreement that once she gives birth, they be taken back to start their new life in Australia.

However, the reality is turning out to be rather different. Whilst the girl would indeed be brought back, the boy would be left behind. Why? Seemingly because he has Downs Syndrome (DS).

So far, so sad. The parents argue that throughout proceedings they were oblivious to existence of a twin boy. At this stage, it’s impossible to tell who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, and it would be unfair to take sides at this juncture. Nor is it my aim to discuss the ethical minefield that is the international surrogacy industry. No, my purpose here is to draw attention to the fact that somewhere down the line, someone, or some entity, took the view that baby Gammy was worth less than his sister due to his disability.

I find this deeply troubling, and I think it aptly demonstrates an increasingly pervasive and negative attitude toward those with disabilities.

This attitude is clear when we look at the hard facts. According to international statistics, more than 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted before birth, whilst disability hate crime and stigma are an all too common reality in the UK. In light of such massive hostility, is the treatment of Baby Gammy (and perhaps many more like him) really that surprising?

Lest we forget that despite the very real limitations and challenges DS presents, children and adults with this condition can and do offer so much to their friends, family, workplaces and society as a whole. Make no mistake, whatever our society says those with DS and other disabilities are a blessing to this world, not a hindrance. The evidence of this isn’t hard to come by, simply conduct a Google search and you’ll find an abundance of stories from parents and those with DS alike confirming the above. In the words of Tom Bachofner, father of Rosie and the man behind ‘thefuturesrosie’ blog:

We wouldn’t change a thing about her. After all, Down’s doesn’t define who she is – it’s just one part of her.’

Thus, instead of consigning those with disabilities to the scrap heap, let’s embrace the privilege it is to live alongside them. Doing so not only enhances our credentials of being a truly diverse and inclusive society, but shows that human beings are so much more than ‘the sum of their parts’ educationally, materially or otherwise. To put it another way, those with DS and other disabilities has the potential to enhance the very things that can’t be measured in metrics but matter so much in everyday life, love, compassion, kindness, perseverance, sacrifice, the list goes on. This is not only true through the actions expressed towards those with disabilities, but also through the abundance which is given back to parents, siblings, friends, wider family, society etc.

I refuse to accept that disabled children and adults alike are a problem to be solved. I refuse to believe that educational and intellectual ability and notions of achievement should determine worth and I refuse to accept that those with disabilities should be shunned by the rest of us on the account of not being desirable enough.

It’s about time attitudes toward DS and disability in general radically changed.

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