CNN’s Kyra Phillips on Children With Down Syndrome: ‘They Are Beautiful Human Beings’

By Lauretta Brown | May 9, 2014 | 12:49 PM EDT

CNN reporter Kyra Phillips, who is the Global Ambassador for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. (AP)

(Editor's Note: Following publication of this article, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation advised that a 2012 report in Prenatal Diagnosis, based on a review of studies from 1995-2011, concluded that the abortion rate of Down Syndrome babies is between 67%-85%, lower than the 92% rate reported from a 1999 study-review. See report and conclusions here.)

( – When asked about the 90% abortion rate for Down Syndrome babies, Kyra Phillips, a six-time Emmy Award winning CNN reporter, while holding a Down Syndrome child in her arms, said that when “you meet a child with Down Syndrome, you realize their potential, you realize how smart they are,” and added, “they are beautiful human beings.”

Phillips made her remarks on Wednesday at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation 2014 Gala in Washington, D.C. Phillips is a Global Ambassador for the foundation.

At the event, asked Phillips, “What do you think of the statistic that nine out of ten babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted?”

Phillips said, “Oh, you know what? Here’s what I say to that, is that if you meet a child with Down Syndrome you realize their potential, you realize how smart they are -- but look at Keegan here --  how loving they are, how energetic, inspiring they are.”

“They are beautiful human beings and that’s why I’m here tonight,” Phillips said.

Seven-year-old Keegan, who has Down Syndrome, was one of the models for the gala.

Phillips also said she was at the event to call for “more money for research and awareness because constantly it’s being cut, and we just need more voices, you know, politically and in the field of journalism.”

CNN's Kyra Phillips and her husband, Fox News correspondent John Roberts. (AP)

Kyra Phillips is a correspondent for the CNN investigative and documentary units and has been with the cable news company since 1999. In addition to the six Emmy Awards she won for her journalism over the years, Phillips was named Reporter of the Year in 1997 by the Associated Press.

In 2013, Phillips was honored with the Quincy Jones Advocacy Award by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.

The high rate of abortion after a diagnosis of Down Syndrome was reported as early as 2007 in the New York Times and has been documented by several different studies.

“About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion,” reported The Times.

In addition, a 1999 study by the Psychology and Genetics Research Group at King's College in London concluded that, following a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, 92% of women chose to have an abortion.

Eric White, who has Down Syndrome, is an altar server at a Catholic Church in Seekonk, Mass. (AP/The Sun Chronicle)

Also, a 1998 study by Wayne State University examined 145 cases of pregnancy in which Down Syndrome was diagnosed and found that 86.9% of women chose to terminate their pregnancies.

Furthermore, as reported in 2008, “with the widespread availability of pre-natal genetic testing, as many as 90 percent of women whose babies were pre-natally diagnosed with the genetic condition chose to abort the child.”

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s “Be Beautiful, Be Yourself D.C. Gala” was held to raise awareness and funds for the many Americans living with Down Syndrome.

The Gala featured a fashion show emceed by Kyra Phillips with more than 19 models who have Down Syndrome; the presentation of the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award to Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS); and a fundraising auction. Singer Leona Lewis concluded the evening with a live concert.

Michelle Sie Whitten, executive director and co-founder of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, mentioned the high percentage of abortions of babies with Down Syndrome in recounting her own experience after receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

The genetic counselor came in and gave me a tissue and said, ‘Don’t cry, Mrs. Whitten.  You know, 80 to 90% of people terminate and you can too.’ And that was my genetic counseling,” Whitten said in her opening remarks at the Gala.

In 1972, a year before the Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion, virtually every child with trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome, was born. (AP Photo)

“The feeling of discrimination emanating from the medical professionals in that office, the inaccurate information they gave me (the life span of a person with Down syndrome was not 3 but 55 [years]) and then learning about the lack of funding for medical care and research for Down Syndrome, set me and my family on a path towards establishing the Global Down Syndrome Foundation,” said Whitten.

According to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, “Down syndrome is the most frequent chromosomal condition, affecting an estimated 400,000 Americans, but is the least-funded genetic condition by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), securing an infinitesimal portion of NIH’s annual budget. Global is focused on raising funds to support research, educating the public about the discrepancy in research funding, and showcasing the abilities of those with Down syndrome.”

When asked Phillips about her support for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation she replied, “Well I am a global ambassador for the organization. I work at CNN, so I obviously have a fabulous platform to talk about our organization.”