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22 Gonz. J. Int'l L. [1] (2019-2020)

handle is hein.journals/gjil22 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Chromosomal Cleansing: The Unrecognized Genocidal Trend

Emily A. Fernandez, J.D.


The prenatal screenings and healthcare provisions for fetuses continue to evolve. These
screenings can detect more than just gender: healthcare providers can also determine whether a
fetus is carrying Down syndrome. The technology results in increased rates of abortions for
fetuses who carry Down syndrome. This paper argues that the increased abortion rates risk
becoming a genocidal trend for an unborn population unable to defend themselves. While the
definition of genocide does not encompass abortion of unborn babies carrying Down syndrome,
the paper analogizes between genocide in other contexts and this increasing practice in order to
criticize the use of prenatal screening which results in the loss of many lives.


In 2004, countries across the globe began implementing prenatal screenings in healthcare
routines for pregnant mothers-to-be.L I These new protocols require blood tests, known as the
quadruple screen, and are designed to determine whether a pregnant woman's fetus is at an
increased risk for certain genetic or physical conditions.1.1 Medical experts can determine
whether a fetus is at risk for Down syndrome based on these blood sample results.3Ih Due to the
availability of these procedures, there is a risk that abortions targeting fetuses with Down
syndrome may increase. In fact in Iceland, [s]ince prenatal screening tests were introduced ...
in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women-close to 100 percent-who received a positive
test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.4i The termination rate of fetuses with
Down syndrome in countries like Iceland has become so widespread that, if these countries' rates
continues to rise, persons with Down syndrome may not exist in future generations.54

Genocide became an internationally recognized crime through the United Nations' Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Convention).L61 Within this
recognition, genocide has been defined as acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or
in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious groups.T17 However, as it currently stands, the
classes named in the Convention fail to extend protections to more specific classes of persons,
including persons with Down syndrome. Despite the fact that the widespread termination of
Down syndrome fetuses is not recognized as genocide according to the standards set forth in the
Convention, it is nevertheless purposeful chromosomal cleansing. To prevent this trend from
continuing, persons with Down syndrome must be afforded legal protections.

Therefore, in order to extend legal protections to classes not currently recognized, the
Convention should expand its definition of protected classes of persons, rather than festering
within its rigorous blind spot and continuing to allow groups that fall outside the definition to be
targeted for extermination.IM If the Convention continues to allow the purposeful termination of
the Down syndrome group, what unprotected group will be targeted next?

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