Killing of Unborn Children with Downs – Genocide

It is the opinion of this Society that the government is guilty of genocide, a crime against humanity which is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. New Zealand is a signatory to the Convention that was passed by the General Assembly on 9 December 1948.

Relevant section of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Our complaint is that in February 2010 the government of New Zealand instituted the “Antenatal Screening for Down Syndrome and other conditions – Quality Improvements” programme. This programme was introduced by the Ministry of Health following advice from the Ministry’s National Screening Unit [NSU] without public consultation. Cabinet papers obtained under the Official Information Act state that the outcomes of the programme will be a reduction in the number of births of people with Down syndrome, with around 90% of unborn children diagnosed with the condition being aborted.  The programme is funded by the state and targets all pregnant women in New Zealand in their first trimester on the basis of providing information to women to make decisions about their pregnancies, including abortion.  People with disabilities are the only group of people in New Zealand targeted for selective abortion. Down syndrome, and other conditions that are targeted, are genetic conditions that have no cure. The basis of first trimester screening is to enable woman to have an abortion within the 20 week timeframe if an abnormality is detected. Other reasons for prenatal diagnosis, such as parent education, hospital selection and delivery management, do not require testing during the first trimester and can be safely left until the later stages of pregnancy.  The preventing of birth of a group of people falls within the definition of genocide under international law.

This Programme was introduced by the Ministry of Health following advice from the Ministry’s National Screening Unit [NSU]. Documentation obtained under the Official Information Act from the Ministry of Health included the document Summary of Key Informant Interviews Antenatal Down Syndrome Screening Final Report which states that, “The programme will be cost beneficial for the population and the health system. The scan highlighted literature that supported the premise that the economic costs of screening outweigh the high costs associated with the long term care needs of an individual with Down syndrome.”

This is eugenics which proclaims that only the perfect have a right to be born. The screening programme is a search and destroy mission and is a further major step on the slippery slope. The government seeks to conceal the true purpose of the programme by calling it a “quality improvement” rather than national screening programme. The government states that it is providing a service to families by giving them a choice whether to terminate the life of the child with Down syndrome or to allow the child to be born. We should be aware that this is part of a strategy of social conditioning. Right to Life contends that the government has decided that children with Down syndrome are not valued or wanted in our community. Its intention then is to encourage families to abort children with Down syndrome. The insidious option to terminate the life of the child will ultimately become a duty to kill the child before birth. With the acceptance of eugenics ultimately it may be expected that with the rationing of diminishing health resources the health care for the disabled will be restricted.

It is the opinion of this Society that the screening programme is in violation of Article II [d] of the Convention, Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group. People with Down syndrome fall within the definition of “disabled persons” and are recognized under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons as a group which forms part of a nation. Under that Declaration disabled persons “have the same civil and political rights as other human beings” and must be protected, against all exploitation, all regulations and all treatment of a discriminatory, abusive or degrading nature.” These rights are further reinforced under Article 10 of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled, which states “State Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

We request that the government cease this screening programme. In the event that the screening programme is not terminated Right to Life New Zealand will lay a formal complaint with the United Nations [The Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide] against the government of New Zealand for genocide by imposing measures to prevent births of children with Down syndrome. The World Health Organisation [WHO], states that the classification for Down syndrome is a “mild to moderate disability.” Most children with Down syndrome participate in public and private educational programs. Educators and researchers are still discovering the full educational potential of people with Down syndrome. Today people with Down syndrome live at home with their families and are active participants in the educational, social and recreational activities of their community. People with Down syndrome are valued members of their families and their communities, contributing to society in a variety of ways. Women who have an unborn child diagnosed with Down syndrome or any other disability need and deserve the support and compassion of the community to accept their child as a valued and loved member of the family and community.

The government should promote a culture of life by ensuring that families who have unborn children with Down syndrome receive compassion and are given all the encouragement and support needed to bring their child to birth. After the birth of their child they should be provided with the services necessary to assist them in providing for the special needs of their child.

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