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Last December, cable network A&E broke new ground with Born This Way, a reality television series starring seven young adults with Down syndrome. The show, which kicked off its second season on July 26, should be required viewing on Capitol Hill, in medical schools, and throughout family living rooms—wherever the fact that an estimated two-thirds of U.S. prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses result in abortion is considered a privilege of “choice” or remains a dirty little secret. If federal judges continue to block laws (like a recent one in Indiana) prohibiting the abortion of children with genetic abnormalities, Born This Way might end up on the History channel as a documentary about a people group hunted to extinction.
But the show, produced by the company behind MTV’s The Real World, has great potential to soften hearts and change minds. The cameras follow the seven highly functional, articulate, and thoughtful individuals who—as they are fond of saying about themselves—are chasing their dreams. Like everyone else, though, they regularly bump against obstacles. For his acting class, Steven writes a scene that expresses his frustration at rejection from girls without intellectual disabilities whom he wants to date. Megan hopes to produce films and live on her own, but she doesn’t appreciate the high cost of living in Los Angeles. (Who could?)
Born This Way captures the group-home housemates sometimes counseling each other and at other times griping at life’s petty annoyances. In one episode, John swears and bemoans the cost of a corsage he’s buying for a dance date. He exclaims, “Do you know how much chicken I can get for $20?!”
The parents, continuing to play major roles in their children’s lives, also get screen time. Their perspectives defy conventional attitudes. At the end of the first season, John’s mother, Joyce, explains that she rejected her doctor’s advice to abort her son.
“I’m thankful,” Joyce says, “that God gave me a chance to be part of his life.”