Recently, an Irish physician speaking at event called The Citizens’ Assembly, said, “In Iceland, no babies have been born with Down syndrome in the last four or five years.”
It’s an example many European nations seek to follow. In North America also, some reports say 90 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted.
On October 20th and 21st of this year, the Respect Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Miami will host the 31st annual Respect Life State Conference at the Bonaventure Convention Center in Weston. At this event, a tribute will be given to the late Dr. Jerome Lejeune (1926-1994), a French pediatrician and geneticist who discovered the cause of Down syndrome.
Dr. Lejeune was both a brilliant scientist and a dedicated Catholic. His groundbreaking work on the genetic causes of syndromic intellectual disabilities won him international acclaim from academics and world leaders alike. Lejeune established the world's first clinic dedicated solely to the care of infants and children with Down syndrome in Paris. He was noted for the saying, "Hate the disease, love the patient: That is the practice of medicine."
Tragically, Dr. Lejeune’s research was used to develop prenatal screening techniques to detect these syndromes in unborn children, effectively promoting their abortion. Always a devout Catholic, this turn of events led Dr. Lejeune to become an outspoken defender of unborn infants and children with Down syndrome and other genetic conditions.
In 1969, he was presented with the William Allan Award, the highest prize in the field of genetics, by the American Society of Human Genetics. He took the opportunity to denounce abortion publicly before his fellow scientists. That day, as he later told his wife, “I lost my Nobel Prize for Medicine.” Both the academic world and the press retaliated. His career ground to a halt; his funding was discontinued; and his former colleagues shunned him.
In 1981, he addressed a U.S. Senate subcommittee on the overwhelming scientific evidence showing that human life begins at conception. In 1992, once again in the U.S., he testified in the Davis v. Davis "frozen embryo case" that human embryos are indeed human beings and not commodities.
Dr. Lejeune was appointed head of the Pontifical Academy for Life by John Paul II in 1994, but suffering as he was from cancer, he did not hold the post for more than a few weeks. He died on Easter Sunday of the same year.
The cause for the canonization of Jerome Lejeune was begun by the Archdiocese of Paris in April 2012 and formally submitted to the Roman authorities, at which point he was given the title "Servant of God."
Jerome Lejeune humbly placed his immense intelligence and deep faith at the service of the defense of human life, especially unborn life, always seeking to treat and to cure those in need.
A passionate proponent of truth and charity, he bore eloquent witness before the contemporary world to the harmony between faith and reason.
Lejeune’s philosophy was: “One phrase, only one, dictates our conduct, the expression of Jesus himself: Whatever you do to one of the least of my brothers, you do it to me.”
Through his intercession, we pray for the success of our conference, that many minds and hearts will be enlightened to the great worth of all human life from the womb to the tomb.