Students Promote Down Syndrome Awareness at UniversityKiersten Lynch | June 2, 2017
Students at Seton Hall University held an event at the end of April to raise awareness about pregnancy terminations as a result of the possibility of the baby being born with Down Syndrome.
In response to an article posted on Independent Journal Review, members of Seton Hall’s Pirates for Life Club sought to spread awareness on their campus about the misconceptions of the lives of those with Down Syndrome. The article highlights the fact that nearly 67-85% of pregnancies are terminated because of the possibility of Down Syndrome. That statistic is even higher in some countries, such as Denmark at 98% and Iceland at 100%. Much of the reason for these shockingly high statistics lies in the many myths that continue to be perpetuated about Down Syndrome.
Photographer Sigga Ella, an Iceland native, was shocked to discover this statistic, and the possibility that lives with Down Syndrome might become extinct. She created her own photo exhibit, First and Foremost I Am, taking portraits of those with Down Syndrome to highlight the beauty of their lives. Students in Pirates for Life, with photographer’s permission, displayed the artwork on signs around the green in the center of campus. They also handed out cards and facts that debunk myths and stereotypes about people with Down Syndrome.
Josephine Maresca, a junior student at Seton Hall and member of the pro-life club, felt that “it is a sad fact that many people who discover their unborn baby has Down Syndrome decide to terminate the pregnancy,” and she thinks it is important that society speaks up about these problems because “essentially this is nothing but a form of discrimination, and a terrible sin against God and humanity.”
Another student, Gregory Lobo, freshman at Seton Hall, stated “that event was one of the most fulfilling things that I have ever done.” What Gregory also enjoyed about the event was that “there was a theme, and it was not just about abortion, because people are not receptive to that. People care about people with disabilities and are bound to receive that better.”
Abortion and pro-life causes are more difficult to talk about at the present than ever before. With the widespread media coverage of Planned Parenthood and advocates who continue to promote the well-known abortion clinic, reaching out to a student body to have a conversation about the issue proves more and more difficult. Students are generally not receptive to this discussion, and focusing this discussion on a specific topic or specific group of targeted people not only makes it easier to approach the issue, but humanizes the people involved in the abortion crisis.
Lauren MacHalany, a freshmen student at Seton Hall University, notes: “What I loved about the Down syndrome event was how many students came up to the table interested in learning more about both Down Syndrome and how they could become involved in the prolife club!”
The event was received with a very positive attitude, with only a few people outwardly opposed to the outreach.
“Other schools can benefit from this, because it sends a message that all life is precious and down children are just the same as normal human beings,” stated Vincent Maresca, a senior student at Seton Hall University.
I myself was a participant in the event, and the response from the student body was very encouraging. Many people read the information cards and were surprised by the termination statistic, and a few even wanted to join the club to make a change.
Events like these are hopeful signs that our generation is realizing the dignity of all lives, and choosing to speak up about it. Josephine added that “the Pirates for Life club at Seton Hall is made up of very lively members, who, through events such as this, present to the campus community facts pertaining to the pro-life cause, spark conversations with peers, and cheerfully promote the dignity of every human life. I’m proud to be a member of this club.”
Find out about pro-life groups at your own colleges and in your communities, and seek to change stigmas about Down Syndrome Lives!
Follow these links for some of the videos that helped Pirates for Life learn more about Down Syndrome and prepare for this event: