Down syndrome screening is genocide, says New Zealand group


A group is threatening to take New Zealand government to a human rights tribunal over its antenatal screening program for Down syndrome children. The Ministry of Health introduced the program without public consultation in February.

The group – a combination of pro-life supporters and Down syndrome parents -- claims that antenatal screening for Down syndrome violates Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, because it imposes measures intended to prevent births within a specific human group. They say it discriminates against people with Down syndrome.

Article 2 of the convention defines genocide as any act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such, one of which is by imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

The others are: Killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

Cabinet papers state that the program would reduce the number of Down syndrome births. About 90% would be aborted.

The parents' group argues that people with Down syndrome are a stable and permanent group of people, linked genetically through having a third 21st chromosome, and share the same physical characteristics. Thus, they can be defined as both an ethnic group and a racial group.

In its submission on discrimination, the group says that the presence, form, presentation and management of the antenatal screening program "sends a clear message to people with Down syndrome that their lives are not valued and reinforces discrimination towards them". ~ New Zealand Herald, Nov 25




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