So How Many Babies with Down Syndrome Are Actually Aborted?

Many of you read, commented, and shared the post I did about “The 8%,” referring to the percentage of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome who aren’t aborted.  I wrote:

In the United States, would you believe ninety-two percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted before they get a chance to take a breath? When I hear this statistic, it makes me want to burst into tears.  I can’t imagine a world without Trig — he is the best brother!  (Okay, you’re not too bad either, Track!)

It’s crazy how in love with Trig we all are. When Tripp is acting up — which he does often! — I sometimes joke with my mom.

“Hey, want to trade kids?” I laugh.

Willow and I always talk about how lovable Trig is, and how we’d take him over any so-called “normal” kid anyday! He’s way cooler than people with fewer chromosomes. I’d have a Down syndrome baby in a heartbeat, and I know anyone else would if they saw any sort of glimpse of how perfect my little brother is.

Thank you for sharing your stories in the comments section and for sharing that post with your friends. However, my website administrator got an e-mail from another on the SixSeeds Faith and Family Channel, author Amy Julia Becker – the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome.  I’m sorry to say I think I unknowingly passed on incorrect information.  She told me that the 8% number is not exactly accurate.  She writes:

I just read Bristol’s post about babies who are born with DS being one of the 8%. I love the poem she includes, and I think her point is an important one. Still, I’ve learned recently that it’s an inaccurate number. It’s widely cited by many people, but it’s based on a single study from a single hospital in the 1980′s. Overall, it seems that about 70% of babies prenatally diagnosed with DS are aborted, and that the abortion rates vary greatly from region to region across the US. Moreover, lots of women don’t seek prenatal diagnosis, whether out of ignorance or because they don’t want to risk an amnio or because they don’t think the information is necessary. So out of all babies conceived with DS, 50% are actually born. Still a terrible reality that 50% are aborted, but a much better situation than the 8% number implies.

I think it’s important to get the accurate numbers out there so that women who are facing decisions about prenatal testing and abortion recognize that they are not alone if they decide to forgo the testing and/or keep the baby with DS. There are thousands of other women making the same decision who want to support them and love their babies.

Thanks, Amy, for the correction. Yes, moms who are facing this challenge, know you’re not alone!

And some of you might enjoy Amy’s book called, “A Good and Perfect Gift:”

A GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT: Faith, Expectations and a Little Girl Named Penny (Bethany House) is a spiritual memoir that chronicles Amy Julia Becker’s journey through her daughter Penny’s first years of life. Top of her class at Princeton, Amy Julia Becker always imagined that her children would turn out just like her. So when her daughter Penny entered the world with Down syndrome, Becker had to rethink everything.

In fact, another Patheos blog is giving away this book.  Click here for Anna Quinn’s complete review and details on how to win your own copy!

  • Gail Thatcher

    There are also many woman that are told that their babies will be born with Down Syndrom and when they are born they are fine. I’m truly not sure what this % is, but understand the rate is higher with woman of Asian ancestry. I don’t want to say right/wrong for any woman’s decision, but I do want to point out that not every pre-birth diagnosis of downs syndrom is correct.

  • chris

    The best thing Bristol can do for herself and her son is get a college degree. Her book is selling for .01 cents at amazon. I could be wrong maybe she is attending college and will soon graduate.

    • Michael Teuber

      Her book is selling for .01 cents at amazon.

      So is “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance“, and its author can’t produce college transcripts either.

      p.s. that’s 1 cent, not .01 cents

      • BobbyJoe

        You are one sick piece of shit.

  • Paulette

    Bristol, not only will you listen to others, but you are more than willing to post corrected information. AND you promote her book! Good for you! Stand strong with God!

  • tina

    Bristol,I don’t think that you were totally wrong because it is really 80 to 90 percent of down syndrome children being aborted.Rick Santorum told Bob Schrieffer that statistic.Politifact say he is almost true you know how Politifact is.New York times did a article about it google it.

    • David

      Santorum is not at fault for repeating an oft-cited statistic. It’s just not accurate.

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  • kate

    Nice one Miss Bristol. You can sense the closeness you have with Trig in the words you write when you mention him. He is very cute. :)

  • Techqueen333

    It is grossly offensive that you pass judgment on families who decide to abort fetuses diagnosed with DS in utero. Not every family has your family’s $$$. Your family can provide a nanny and whatever care Trig needs throughout his life. This is not the case for working and middle class families. They have to figure out a way to deal with the chronic illnesses many DS children suffer and, if the republicans have their way, many of these families won’t be able to afford insurance to cover that care. Further, the decision to give birth to a fetus with DS is not only a decision for the parents, but potentially for siblings and the extended family. Eventually, parents die and those DS children who outlive their parents will need care.
    Yes, I am well aware of the loving nature of DS children and all the reasons people are glad they made the decision to give birth despite a diagnosis of DS. The decision to abort is at least as complex and certainly deserving of respect and legal sanction.

    • Leticia Velasquez

      Bristol, your original statistic was correct. I wrote a series of articles on Down syndrome and abortion for the National Catholic Register and my editor made me recheck the 90% statistic. It came from a Pulitzer Prize series winning of articles called “The DNA Age” by New York Times journalist Amy Harmon
      who cites a 1999 Journal article from the National Institutes of Health.
      I included the 92% statistic in my book “A Special Mother is Born” which contains 34 stories from parents of special needs children who see them as blessings from God, including my daughter Christina who has Trisomy 21, and Rick Santorum’s daughter Bella with Trisomy 18.
      But really, does 70% or 92% make that much of a a difference? The hard fact is, that in ours the most prosperous nation on earth, where people with Down syndrome are crashing through barriers each day; getting married, graduating high school and even college, driving cars, acting on TV and even swimming Lake Tahoe, we are rejecting them in overwhelming numbers.
      What ever happened to the concept of embracing diversity?
      When I married a man from El Salvador, many of my European-descended family opposed the marriage, but once they got to know my husband, hardworking, intelligent, loving towards me and our three daughters, old stereotypes were abandoned in favor of the truth. My daughter is no different, she wins over people’s hearts by her vivacious, affectionate personality and her persistence in working to achieve her goals. Soon, the labels associated with Down syndrome are inadequate to describe her and she becomes simply Christina.
      I wish Techqueen could see our kids as individuals, not merely expensive children who are the luxury of a few. We live on one income and have never encountered a shortage of medical or therapeutic assistance for our daughter in the ten years of her life. People with Trisomy 21 are individuals with the same human rights as you and me, and if a mom doesn’t fee up to raising such a child, there are over 200 families on a waiting list to adopt her child at the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network.
      No child with Down syndrome need ever be rejected for not living up to society’s false standards of perfection. My daughter has learning delays but is a contributing member or her family and society, her biggest obstacle is overcoming prejudice against people who are genetically diverse.

    • BobbyJoe

      Great post. Parents do NOT need guilt heaped on them when making this decision. AFTER ALL, Sarah herself briefly considered abortion. So who needs these holier than thou Palin’s guilting ANYONE about their PERSONAL decisions about their families.

    • politicaljules

      Non-rich mom to a kid with Down syndrome. No nannie, just a very loving tight knit family whose world was changed for the better since this child came into our lives. Obamacare already ruined our insurance coverage. We used to have decent coverage until this year Our premiums went up by 40% and they are taxed like income now, so our taxes are insanely high now. Not only that but the coverage we used to get is non existent. Our out of pocket expenses have skyrocketed this year because of new obamacare regulation. I pray the conservatives can stop the nightmare that is obamacare and our daughter can get the care she needs. Our family is being put under financial strain so our insurance coverage and our wealth can be redistributed. How on earth anyone can think that solves any health care crisis in this country is beyond me.

  • Lynn


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  • Rose

    Bristol, although reasons for abortion aren’t accurately tracked in the U.S., they are in other countries. I believe the statistic of about 90% is actually accurate for countries such as Canada and the U.K. I could be mistaken, but I think that is true. One important thing to realize (which you probably do, and others have probably pointed out) is that it that the 90% statistic is for babies PRENATALLY diagnosed with DS. There are still plenty of babies who were not detected because their mothers didn’t have prenatal testing, who are being born. So the statistic over all is not as high. But it is still high. I really don’t think you needed to apologize. Many advocates have used that number; you didn’t say anything different than what others have said. And the point is well taken: TOO MANY babies with Down syndrome are being aborted, mostly because of ignorance. That’s why we must keep speaking out and educating people about what life is realy like with a child or sibling with Down syndrome.