A demonstration held in front of the Laval University Hospital (CHUL) in Quebec on 21 May 2010 criticised the introduction of a public programme to screen for Down syndrome (See Press review of 22-26/02/10). Parents of Down syndrome children and adult sufferers voiced their opposition to this systematic screening which is discriminatory and leaves women no other solution but abortion.
"Are we in danger of extinction?" questioned Roselyne Chevrette, a woman in her thirties with Down syndrome and spokesperson for the Coalition against the public Down syndrome screening programme. The Coalition explained its opposition to "selecting foetuses with genetic particularities" which could lead to "eugenic abuse". "We don't believe in free and informed consent as the average consultation in Quebec lasts 6.5 minutes, which seems too short to outline a complex problem of such importance. Furthermore, approximately 40% of women who had an ultrasound and a blood test were not aware that they could be faced with a decision not to continue their pregnancy at some point."
"Where will this end? [...] Who will not be allowed to live in the future?" questioned Diane Milliard, managing director of the Quebec Association for Community Living (QACL). She fears that social pressure will be very strong should tests confirm a foetus has Down syndrome, in which case abortion will become the easy way out.
Dr Jean-Claude Forest, chairman of the steering committee for the Quebec Down syndrome prenatal screening programme, said he understood families' concerns: "They are quite right to say [they have a right to live] and to be concerned about the way society will judge them." But he supports the "possibility of choice". For him, the idea is that "women who want to make an informed decision whether to continue their pregnancy may do so based on all the available tools".
The Coalition is organising for an inclusive society which accepts handicapped people and is also informing people about the "issues involved in over medicalising pregnancy" and the "undue pressure placed on pregnant women once the screening process begins".
Cyberpresse.ca (Baptiste Ricard-Châtelain) 22/05/10 - Lejournaldequebec.canoe.ca (Diane Tremblay) 21/05/10 - Inclusif.ca (Rachel Germain) 22/05/10 - Monde actu.com 23/05/10