"We live in a society that claims to value and appreciate those who are different and those who have a disability and yet what we say and do are two different things," Andrew Gray, a lay member, said during a debate before the General Synod of the Church of England unanimously passed a motion affirming the "dignity and full humanity" of people with Down syndrome. Gray's comments also highlighted the stark similarity of selective abortion practices with eugenics popularized in Nazi Germany.
"In countries like Iceland, Down syndrome has been virtually eliminated. What we have is a very simple situation. The U.K. and Europe has begun to practice eugenics, by default, and without intent," Gray added. "This is not because of a state-led desire to remove those considered weak or sub-human — we don't live in 1930s Germany, thank God. But while the reasons and the motivations are different, the outcome is the same."
The debate, which was about the introduction of prenatal testing for birth defects and inherited diseases in the U.K., preceded the passing of the motion, which cautioned the government to make sure that "unbiased information" is provided to expecting parents after a blood test confirms their child's diagnosis.
"This is not a debate about the ethics of abortion. It is not an attack on medical discoveries or advances," James Newcome, the Bishop of Carlisle, told The Sunday Times. "It is not an attempt to tell women what to decide ... but it is about saying that every human being is valuable and we want to show that in practical terms, in love and concern."
Newcome also noted that the life expectancy for a child with Down syndrome has increased from nine years of age in 1929 to now 60 years of age. "We are concerned that not everyone, and I include medical staff, may be aware of the amazing progress that has been made."
According to the Times, about 90 percent of pregnant mothers in the U.K. who learn that their child has Down syndrome choose to abort.
Similar selective abortion practices targeting babies with cleft lips and/or palates recently came under fire when data revealed that the number of such babies being aborted for the minor, easily repairable condition had tripled in recent years. Church of England curate, the Reverend Joanna Jepson, who was born with a similar jaw deformity, said that the fact that more parents choose to abort their children for minor birth defects is on the rise "just shows just how far we are from being the humane and tolerant society we claim to be."