George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
an appropriate message for the Christmas Season...or any season. The
gift of a child is the most direct gift from God. This is true
regardless of the child's condition or infirmities. In fact, a child
with infirmities is an opportunity for the parents to achieve for their
spiritual lives more than they ever thought possible. By contrast, the
choice of abortion is one of the most grave repudiations of God's love
for each of us as individuals.
We cannot earn Heaven by our actions: that is God's gift to us. But we
can certainly refuse it. That is the challenge of another gift: Free
Will. Think about that.
The world seen from Rome
Diagnoses: No Detecting the Joy Awaiting
of Advocacy Group on Her Book A Special Mother Is Born
Connecticut, DEC. 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A prenatal test released a few
weeks ago is being hailed (in some quarters) as the end of Down
syndrome. The implication, of course, is that if parents can discover
more quickly and easily that their unborn child has Down, they will opt
indicate that already in the vast majority of cases (more than nine out
of 10), abortion is the route parents choose if tests currently
available reveal their child has the condition. So an easier, earlier
test could indeed mean the end -- not for Down syndrome itself, but for
those who carry it.
Velasquez considers this a grave mistake. Velasquez is the co-founder
of KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome), and is the mother of
Christina, who has the condition.
month, Velasquez released A Special Mother Is Born, which tells the
story of 34 people -- mostly moms, and a few dads too -- who have
embraced a special-needs child as a gift.
spoke with Velasquez about her book and what these special-needs kids
-- and their families -- need most.
You probably saw the news about a new test that will be the end of Down
syndrome. What are your comments on it?
The new test, MaterniT21, does pose a serious threat to the lives of
many more unborn babies with Down syndrome. Consider the statistic in
the Archives of Diseases in Childhood: Due to the trend of women having
children later in life, between 1989-2005, it was expected that there
would be a 15% increase in babies born with Down syndrome. Instead,
there was a 34% decrease. This means there was an effective decrease of
49% in births of babies with Down syndrome in that period, due to
prenatal testing and abortion. The abortion rate for babies diagnosed
with Down syndrome is currently 92% in the U.S. and higher in Europe.
Once MaterniT21, a non-invasive blood test which is done at 10 weeks,
with 99% accuracy, is widely available, many more women will know if
they are carrying a child with Down syndrome. If current trends
persist, the abortion rate of these children will increase
the test is paid for by [President Barack Obama's health care reform
package], as Health and Human Services Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius
recommended recently, most women will opt to take the test. If the 92%
abortion rate holds steady, then we could expect that abortion number
to climb precipitously. In addition, the idea of an abortion at 12
weeks is less abhorrent to women than an abortion at 22 weeks, when the
results of the other tests are available.
order to combat this trend, we have to focus on the opportunity that an
early diagnosis presents to the medical community. No longer is a woman
forced to make a rapid decision before a legal deadline of 24 weeks for
late term abortion, so there is no need to rush such a critical
life-or-death decision. Now the mother has plenty of time to learn
about the true nature of life with Down syndrome: the amazing array of
free services; medical treatments for common problems such as heart
defects; the opportunities for education through college; and inclusion
in everyday community activities.
important survey published by Dr. Skotko in the American Journal of
Medical Genetics shows a 99% rate of satisfaction experienced by
families of people with Down syndrome, as well as a 99% rate of their
children being happy with themselves. Researchers say within 10 years
there will be a drug available that will make their learning and memory
completely normal. There has never been a better time in history to be
born with Down syndrome. Doctors owe their patients this type of
up-to-date information, and it's my goal to make sure they have access
also have to re-evaluate what it means to be a parent. Are we looking
to create a clone of ourselves or fulfill our own dreams through our
children? Author Amy Julia Becker wrote A Good and Perfect Gift about
having her daughter Penny with Down syndrome. She says in Time
magazine,I went to Princeton, I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, I have always
been smart. I didn't realize how much I assumed I'd have a daughter
just like me. Having Penny really challenged me to rethink what it
means to be a whole and full human being.
Tell us about how you selected the profiles in your book. Were there
many more to choose from than those who made it into A Special Mother
While compiling stories for the book, I looked for parents who
understood that their special-needs children were God's gifts to their
families, and the larger community. Some were writers, and some were
personal friends, but all of these people understood that they were
called to an extraordinary commitment to parenthood. They understand
that parenting such a child is to be a sign of contradiction to the
world, which rejects these children at an increasing rate. They
understand that the call to parent a special-needs child is a blessing:
an invitation to grow in life-giving love. The most moving aspect of
this is that these life-changing lessons were learned from children who
could not express this verbally, they merely taught their families by
their example of whole-hearted love.
Benedict visited disabled youth in Madrid this summer and said, Because
the Son of God wanted freely to embrace suffering and death, we we are
also capable of seeing God's image in the face of those who suffer.
This preferential love of the Lord for the suffering helps us to see
others more clearly and to give them, above and beyond their material
demands, the look of love which they need.
Your book brought me to tears many times, but this collection is not an
appeal to sentiments (or not only that). What is it? Or what do you
hope it to be?
I want my readers to see the glory of a life fully lived, in the
irresistible beauty of a life lived in the power of our faith. That is
what makes these stories so profound: God's grace has been permitted to
shine powerfully in the lives of these parents and their families by
their surrender to his will. Once God has overtaken a heart, its
capacity to love expands, and we who witness it say, See how they love
one another? I hope to inspire those who fear such surrender -- and
most of us do -- to take the plunge and trust God's will for us when
love calls for sacrifice. After all, what is more challenging than the
illness or death of a child?
Do you consider these stories only for Christians?
No, I have heard parents of other faiths discuss the extraordinary
spiritual gifts of special-needs children. There is a film about a
Jewish youth endowed with extraordinary spiritual gifts called Praying
With Lior. Many parents of special-needs children will recognize this
about their own children, regardless of their faith tradition. I merely
wanted to write a book focusing on the spiritual richness of our
Catholic faith from the perspective to whom much is given, much is
Though not a resource manual, the book includes a list of resources at
the end that is varied and extensive, even a board book for toddlers.
Are resources what these families need most?
No, we need far more than resources. We need a society that welcomes
our children with open arms, not one that questions their right to
exist. I offer resources and inspirational stories to accompany parents
in their journey of giving birth to a special-needs child, as they, and
the authors of the book, strive to create this culture of life
together. Many of my contributors offer their personal support to such
So what would you say is the one thing that mothers of special-needs
children need to know when faced with the adverse diagnosis?
I quote the co-founder of Keep Infants with Down Syndrome (KIDS),
Eileen Haupt, who says in her story of her daughter Sadie, born with
Down syndrome. The doctors can tell you your child's diagnosis, but
they cannot tell you the joy your child will bring you. Ninety nine
percent of people with Down syndrome say they are happy with their
lives; as a parent, having a happy child who gets to heaven is my goal.
My daughter Christina at age 9, is already well on her way.
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