The Killing of Unborn Children with Down syndrome – A Crime Against Humanity?


The following has been released by Right to Life New Zealand Inc.

The Killing of Unborn Children with Down syndrome  –  A Crime Against Humanity: Complaint to be lodged with the International Criminal Court

Right to Life applauds the producer of TV3’s 60 Minutes programme for providing a service to our community by producing an excellent investigative documentary on the antenatal national screening programme for Down syndrome.  The national screening programme targets unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome, with around 75% of them being killed. It is hoped that this TV 3 documentary will promote an informed public debate on the government’s discrimination and destruction of babies with Down syndrome.—Down-But-Not-Out/tabid/1343/articleID/71663/Default.aspx

It is the opinion of this Society that the government is guilty of crimes against humanity under Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty of Rome, to which New Zealand is signatory to. Article 7 prohibits the persecution of any identifiable group of people within the civilian population. Article 6 prohibits the prevention of births within that group. People with Down syndrome are clearly protected under the Treaty of Rome as an identifiable group of people, as their genetic identity is the sole basis of genetic screening.

We request that the government immediately cease targeting unborn children with Down syndrome for selective abortion. If this is not forthcoming, Right to Life New Zealand together with a number of families who have a member with Down syndrome will lay a formal complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague against the government of New Zealand for crimes against humanity and genocide, by imposing measures to prevent births of children with Down syndrome.

People with Down syndrome are valued members of their families and their communities, contributing to society in a variety of ways. Women who have an unborn child diagnosed with Down syndrome, or any other disability, need and deserve the support and compassion of the community to accept their child as a valued and loved member of the family and community.

The government should promote a culture of life by ensuring that families who have unborn children with Down syndrome receive compassion and are given all the encouragement and support needed to bring their child to birth. After the birth of their child they should be provided with the services necessary to assist them in providing for the special needs of their child.

Additional supporting information

The screening programme encourages discrimination against unborn children diagnosed as having Down syndrome. The programme is also in contravention of the Government’s own Disability Strategy, which seeks to uphold the right of those with a disability to be welcomed in society.

The screening programme was introduced by the Ministry of Health following advice from the Ministry’s National Screening Unit [NSU] without public consultation.

Cabinet papers obtained under the Official Information Act state that the outcomes of the programme will be a reduction in the number of births of people with Down syndrome, with around 90% of unborn children diagnosed with the condition being aborted.

NSU documents state that the programme will be cost beneficial for the population and the health system on “ the premise that the economic costs of screening outweigh the high costs associated with the long term care needs of an individual with Down syndrome.”

The programme is funded by the state and targets all pregnant women in New Zealand in their first trimester on the basis of providing information to women to make decisions about their pregnancies, including abortion.  People with disabilities are the only group of people in New Zealand targeted for selective abortion. Down syndrome, and other conditions that are targeted, are genetic conditions that have no cure. The basis of first trimester screening is to enable woman to have an abortion within the 20 week timeframe if an abnormality is detected. Other reasons for prenatal diagnosis, such as parent education, hospital selection and delivery management, do not require testing during the first trimester and can be safely left until the later stages of pregnancy.

Ken Orr
Right to Life New Zealand Inc.


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