Birthe Lejeune, wife of Servant of God Jerome Lejeune, speaks in Herndon

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Birthe Lejeune, wife of Servant of God Jérôme Lejeune who discovered the genetic cause of Down syndrome, spoke about Down syndrome as a pro-life cause for Divine Mercy Care at the Hilton Dulles Hotel in Herndon Oct. 18. This was the second part of an education series sponsored by Divine Mercy Care and Tepeyac OB-GYN.

Birthe, vice chairman of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, was named an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life in June.

John Bruchalski of Tepeyac OB/GYN and Divine Mercy Care in Fairfax, gave the opening remarks.

In August, CBS reported a story from Iceland about how the country is eradicating Down syndrome by providing abortions for women who discover their baby has the genetic disorder through prenatal testing. Bruchalski said in Denmark, 98 percent of pregnancies with Down syndrome diagnoses are terminated.

In France, the home of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, 77 percent of Down syndrome pregnancies end in termination. In the United States, it is 67 percent.

“This is why Down syndrome is a pro-life cause and this is why we are here tonight,” he said. “This is why we try to have these educational conversations at Divine Mercy Care and Tepeyac OB/GYN.”

Lejeune’s visit coincided with the timing of Down syndrome awareness month. Jerome Lejeune is a hero of Bruchalski, who has had a great relationship with the foundation in France.

Lejeune shared the life story of her husband and their shared work caring for the most vulnerable through research, education and advocacy. “He was so sad when he saw his discovery used against his patients,” she said. “(The doctors) said it was wonderful because now we can tell them and end the life of the sick baby by abortion.”

Parents of children with Down syndrome in France were encouraged to hide their children, but Lejeune said her husband worked to convince parents to be proud of them.

“He was really anxious to know who would continue to defend and find a cure for these children,” she said of her husband. He died in 1994.

Lejeune said the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation provides research, care and defends children with Down syndrome.  

Fran Van de Voorde doesn’t have a child with Down syndrome nor does anyone in her family. She attended the talk, instead, from a pro-life perspective. “The thing that this talk has done for me is it has shifted the perspective of how you look at people with Down syndrome, not just from a position of being pro-life but of them being a person and how they should be able to live their lives,” she said.

Will Waldron, executive director of Divine Mercy Care, said that through research people can show how those with Down syndrome can have full lives. “There is research on how we educate people with Down syndrome and that they can be engaged,” said Waldron. “That’s a message the secular world can really understand.”

He said those with faith know we all have crosses to bear. “For those with Trisomy 21 and Down syndrome, their cross is obvious and we see it every day,” Waldron said. “I think that is the inspiration — there is hope for them to be their best advocates — we hope to share through research that they can be their own best advocates.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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