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French Court Upholds Ban on Ad Featuring Children with Down Syndrome

Scott Slayton | Contributor | Monday, December 5, 2016

French Court Upholds Ban on Ad Featuring Children with Down Syndrome

The French Council of State recently upheld the French Broadcasting Council’s ban of a commercial intended to convince mothers not to abort their babies after discovering they have down syndrome.

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation released the ad on Global Down Syndrome Day in 2014 to show mothers of children with Down Syndrome what the children will be able to do. Now that Down Syndrome can be detected through prenatal testing, many of the mothers who receive this diagnosis fear the kind of life facing their child and choose to abort. The ad seeks to allay their fears by featuring both children and adults with down syndrome sharing the things they can do, such as smiling, speaking, hugging, running to their mother, going to school, and holding a job, just like everybody else.

The Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which specializes in research on Down Syndrome and helped sponsor the ad, appealed the decision. Last month, the Council of State concurred with the original decision, saying the ad was “inappropriate” and believed it would "likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.”

Writing in response to the Court’s statement, commentator George Will concluded, “The court has said, in effect, that the lives of Down syndrome people — and by inescapable implication, the lives of many other disabled people — matter less than the serenity of people who have acted on one or more of three vicious principles: That the lives of the disabled are not worth living. Or that the lives of the disabled are of negligible value next to the desire of parents to have a child who has no special, meaning inconvenient, needs. Or that government should suppress the voices of Down syndrome children in order to guarantee other people’s right not to be disturbed by reminders that they have made lethal choices on the basis of one or both of the first two inappropriate principles.”

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Publication date: December 5, 2016