Thursday, June 23, 2011

Parents of children with Down syndrome take New Zealand government to International Criminal Court saying prenatal testing that pressures for pregnancy termination a form of persecution

From 3 News in New Zealand:

A group of parents whose children have Down syndrome are taking the New Zealand Government to the International Criminal Court.

They claim the ante-natal screening programme that detects Down syndrome puts pressure on mothers to terminate the pregnancy, and that's a form of persecution.

A week ago the Sullivans took their case to the court of public opinion – now they're going to a court normally reserved for the worst crimes against humanity.

"The International Criminal Court deals with issues of persecution against identifiable groups with in a civilian population, and we believe that is the situation that is occurring in New Zealand," says Mike Sullivan

It is occurring, he says, because of the way New Zealand's National Screening Unit offers its Down syndrome testing.

"It is presented in a way that funds and promotes the termination of foetuses where there is a diagnosis of Down syndrome."

International data shows up to 90 percent of Down syndrome pregnancies are terminated, but the Ministry of Health says while Down syndrome screening is offered to all pregnant women, there's no expectation they will participate.

It says those who choose to continue with a Down syndrome pregnancy will be fully supported.

The ICC is known for indicting African leaders like Sudan's Omar al-Bashir for crimes of genocide, so it would be unusual to see the New Zealand Government in the dock.

"It's a novel case and an interesting argument, but the ICC prosecutes individuals, not states," says Marie Pressard, law lecturer.

That wont stop the parents lodging their complaint next week, then it's up to the court's prosecutors to decide if the case has merit.