I don’t watch many movies. But I was at the hospital yesterday for an appointment, and I had a sudden urge to watch “Finding Nemo”.
I’d watched it 12 or 15 years ago. I had forgotten the beginning of the movie, where the mother and children are killed by a barracuda. The father survives, along with one child–Nemo–who hasn’t hatched yet. Nemo grows up with a disabled fin, and he and his over-protective father eventually have many adventures together.
I’ll admit–I cried. It’s a beautiful story!
But, I also cried because I was thinking of the thousands of unborn children who are needlessly killed in China every hour of every day.
But this isn’t a movie review. I’m writing this article to discuss Down Syndrome testing in Hong Kong. Honestly, this article could have been three times longer, but I’m trying to keep the focus on Hong Kong (and I’ll try not to get side-tracked talking about England, America, China, or anyone else that has helped Hong Kong become a global leader in prenatal diagnostic research).
I’ll start by saying that Hong Kong is not a very “pro-abortion” society. On one hand, they do encourage small families, as all big cities do. And they do heavily promote contraception. But, they do not strongly promote abortion in most cases.
Unlike America, Canada, and the rest of China, Hong Kong does not allow abortion “on demand”. In practice, Hong Kong doctors do abortions until 12 weeks (for a broad array of medical reasons). And they do abortions until 24 weeks (for cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormality). The abortion rate in Hong Kong is similar to the rate in most countries.
In the rest of China, the abortion rates are still very high. And more often than not, the legal, social, and medical policies actively encourage or require abortion.
If Chinese doctors or ultrasound technicians believe there is even a small chance that a child will be disabled, they encourage the parents to abort the pregnancy. And, Chinese people have a high regard for medical professionals. So when a doctor or x-ray technician suggests abortion, it’s enough to make many mothers feel they have no choice.
I’m going out of my way to say: Hong Kong is not the worst place in the world regarding abortion. But, when it comes to disabled children–especially preborn children with Down Syndrome–Hong Kong has helped lead the way in getting rid of them.
Women in Hong Kong who are at risk of giving birth to a child with disabilities are softly encouraged to abort. For women in the rest of China, the choice is often made for them.
So, let’s go back to my experience yesterday at Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong. I finished watching the beginning of Finding Nemo, and was honestly very moved. But later, when I was preparing to leave the hospital, I learned some surprising information.
As a matter of policy, Hong Kong hospitals schedule many women to be screened for Down Syndrome, before any prenatal care begins.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority website says: “The screening test is absolutely voluntary.” But in general, women are not told that it is voluntary, unless they ask. They are simply given a date, and given instructions for how to prepare for the screening test.
To clarify–I’m not opposed to prenatal testing. I think it’s a great idea to know about your children’s health risks before birth, so that you can prepare to give them appropriate care.
But the reason that the test was created was not to care for children with Down Syndrome, but to prevent them from being born. Practically speaking, Hong Kong–and all of China–has a “search and destroy” policy for Down Syndrome.
Of course, to be fair–in Hong Kong, parents are allowed to give birth, and their decision is respected. But the feeling is obvious–Down Syndrome children are not welcome in Hong Kong society.
In the rest of China, there is little or no respect for parents’ wishes.
Screening and testing for Down Syndrome has been encouraged for many years. But the most advanced technique for Down Syndrome testing was developed in Hong Kong, by Dr. Dennis Lo. He has many very impressive accomplishments in medical research. But his biggest claim to fame is for making a non-invasive test that is extremely accurate in detecting fetal abnormalities.
The test is used primarily to find fetuses with Down Syndrome before they are born. The reality is, this is nearly always done in order to find them, and abort them. This means that Dr. Lo has created the world’s most advanced “search and destroy” method for getting rid of those with Down Syndrome.
Among many other international awards, he received the Future Science Prize, which is China’s version of the Nobel Prize. The award was specifically related to this test, which has been used extensively in China, to prevent babies with Down Syndrome from being born.
Also, Dr. Dennis Lo is the director of the Li Ka Shing Institute for Health Sciences, which is at Prince of Wales Hospital. This is the hospital where I now receive treatment, and where I was watching Finding Nemo yesterday.
I’m sure that Dr. Dennis Lo believes that he’s doing something good for the world. But in practice, he is helping ensure that Chinese society is built on violence against the innocent. That is not a path towards a better and more just future.