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
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