Del. Norton on Down Syndrome Abortions: ‘I Think It’s Quite Inappropriate to Talk About’

By Lauretta Brown | May 15, 2014 | 4:04 PM EDT

District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. ( Starr)

( – When asked about the high abortion rate for Down Syndrome babies, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said “everybody has to decide for themselves what to do” and added, “I think it’s quite inappropriate to talk about what you’re talking about.”

Norton made her comment at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation Gala in Washington, D.C. on May 7, an event during which the foundation’s executive director mentioned the high incidence of abortion of Down Syndrome babies.

Norton, who has a daughter with Down Syndrome, was honored at the gala with the foundation’s Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award.

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

Norton said, “Everybody has to decide for themselves what to do. I don’t have any criticism of anybody else, that’s not what I’m here tonight to do. I’m here to applaud those Down Syndrome children who come into this world.”

“And I think it’s quite inappropriate to talk about what you’re talking about,” she said. “I think we ought to keep talking about those of us who have raised Down Syndrome [children] to live, not about people who’ve made a difficult decision that we don’t know anything about.” later contacted Norton’s office by telephone and e-mail and asked, “Given that 90% of Down Syndrome babies are aborted, does Delegate Norton think it should be illegal to abort a baby diagnosed with Down Syndrome?”

Norton did not respond.   Norton took office as D.C. Delegate to the House of Representatives in 1991 and has been re-elected every two years since. She has a long record of supporting pro-abortion legislation.

Three days after the gala, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation contacted with information about a 2012 report in Prenatal Diagnosis, which concluded that the abortion rate for Down Syndrome babies was lower than 90%, at a rate now estimated to be somewhere between 67% and 85%.

In 2007, the New York Times had reported, “About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.”

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.

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.”

In her opening remarks at the gala, Michelle Sie Whitten, executive director and co-founder of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, related her own experience of being given a prenatal diagnosis of Down.

She said, “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.”

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 CNN’s Kyra Phillips with more than 19 models who have Down Syndrome; the presentation of the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award to Delegate Norton (D-D.C.) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS); and a fundraising auction. Singer Leona Lewis concluded the evening with a live concert.

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.”