Genetic Oppression: What a Difference a Chromosome Makes

The following is a letter drafted after watching a documentary on the role of women around the world. A woman’s genetic code is different from a man’s by one chromosome, and this one chromosome makes a world of difference in the life or death she is given. Just one chromosome…

“Dear Mom and Dad,

My existence is both a blessing and a curse to you right now. You wanted a baby, just not one with my particular chromosomal make up. For you, that one particular chromosome makes the difference between a wholesome, happy, family, and a life of hardship, financial difficulty, and maybe even social stigma.

So right now, you are considering ending my life before I have a chance to live a happy, productive life. Before you even give me a chance to enrich your life and be a blessing to you. That one chromosome sure makes a difference, doesn’t it?

It’s true, that those without my chromosome are stronger, are typically paid more, and are more “successful” than people like I am. But how many more of them are given the chance to succeed in their circumstances? For centuries people like me have been discriminated against, treated as lesser beings, burdens, and sometimes embarrassments. In some cultures they’re executed before even being given a chance. Even here in the U.S., those who share my special chromosome are aborted at an increased rate.

It surprises me though, that in a country like the United States, which appears to fight so hard for equality and tolerance, that such a disproportionate amount of care and concern is spent on rescuing people like me from those who would take power and lord it over those they have taken it from. That those who fight for justice and equality would then turn and stand on the throat of those they see as lesser, weaker, members of society.

But it is simply not true that having babies like me will make society better or stronger. It is not true that families with children like me are worse off. Sure. They look different from others families where no children have my chromosome, but they are happy, and often stronger than others. Ask anyone. Moms and dads would say that their lives have been better for their having a child with my chromosome. They’ve learned to appreciate my difference and enjoy my successes and failures with as much pride as the successes and failures of those without my chromosome. Their families feel whole, and the absence of my chromosome would mean a void in their lives.

My chromosome makes me look and act differently, and sometimes speak differently. But it doesn’t make me less human. It doesn’t make me less important than other members of society. I will have different gifts and talents than others. But isn’t diversity a good thing? Don’t differences bring out the best in people? Don’t different gifts help everyone function better? If there were no people like me, wouldn’t that make society a worse place?

But if you still don’t want me, did you know that there is a waiting list of people hoping to adopt people with my chromosome? That’s right. People see me as an asset to their families, and to society despite and because of my genetic difference. So please: talk to someone who cares about unwanted babies. And if they convince you to keep me, I promise that you will not be worse off for my participation in your family. But if you still don’t feel up for it, give me to them and I will be a blessing to them. They are, after all, waiting for someone just like me.

I want you to think about about this chromosomal culprit. My one, extra chromosome. It may be different. It may mean I will never climb the corporate scale. I might not live alone. But I can work, I can marry, and I can love and enrich the lives of those around me. Please, just give me a chance. Don’t let this one tiny chromosome ruin our lives.”

According to a 2011 Life News article and a 2007 New York Times piece, 90% of pregnancies where the baby was known to have Downs syndrome was terminated. One chromosome difference between a man, a woman, and a Downs baby. Where are the advocates for those with the extra chromosome?

Here are some resources about the adoption of babies with Down Syndrome – all from spending five minutes on Google. There are lots of resources available if you’re willing to look.

Hundreds respond to call to adopt a baby with Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome Adoption Explodes in Popularity

Don’t Abort, Parents Are Waiting to Adopt Down Syndrome Kids

Adopting a New Purpose

National Down Syndrome Adoption Network

Children with Down Syndrome in Demand

And here’s a great children’s book about the blessing of disabilities: Just As I Am: God’s Good Design In Disability

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