New light of the anti-abortion movement — an accomplished woman with Down syndrome

Religion News Service | 1/20/2018 | Heather Adams
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LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Karen Gaffney has swum the English Channel, given a TEDx talk and received an honorary doctorate. As a public speaker, she disarms audiences with her warmth and humor.

For all these reasons, and because she has Down syndrome and opposes abortion, Gaffney, 40, also serves as a prized speaker for the anti-abortion movement.

Voice - Gaffney - Portland - Ore - Speech

“I want my voice to be heard,” Gaffney, of Portland, Ore., said during a speech that received a standing ovation in January at OneLife LA, a gathering to protest abortion. “And I want my message to come through loud and clear.”

Her message is that people like her deserve a chance at life.

Kathleen - Domingo - OneLife - LA - Organizer

Kathleen Domingo, the OneLife LA organizer, heard Gaffney speak while watching her TEDxPortland talk online last year, and soon realized that she would be just the person to address OneLife LA.

“After reaching out we realized, ‘Oh my goodness, she’s actually a Catholic woman,’” Domingo said.

Anti-abortion - Groups - Proportion - Women - Fetuses

Anti-abortion groups are particularly worried about the high proportion of women choosing to terminate fetuses with Down syndrome after prenatal testing, which has become increasingly safe and sophisticated in the past decade.

This year wasn’t the first time OneLife LA has featured a speaker on abortions chosen because of fetal abnormalities. In 2015, its first year, Rick Smith, known to many as “Noah’s Dad,” spoke about being a parent of a child with Down syndrome.

March - Life - Nation - Anti-abortion - Groups

March for Life, one of the nation’s best-known anti-abortion groups, also stepped up its work on the issue after the release of a 2017 report from Iceland that showed a nearly 100 percent abortion rate for women who learn they are carrying a fetus with Down syndrome.

“I think the Iceland story was so shocking to so many people,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life. “They just didn’t know that this is a situation.”

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