CNN’s Alisyn Camerota: fact-checking claimed “costs” of Down syndrome lives

Camerota

In discussing a recent state bill to ban Down syndrome selective abortions, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota corrected her guest on his figures, but the ones she cited are even more troubling. 

Ohio has a bill pending in its state legislature that would make it a felony for a medical provider to abort a pregnancy based on a test result indicating or a diagnosis of Down syndrome. CNN anchor Camerota had one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. John Becker, on to discuss the bill. You can watch the video below and at this link:

In the interview, Camerota challenged Becker after he relayed personal experiences with children with Down syndrome being welcomed by their families. Camerota disputed this portrayal for being incomplete, since, as she put it, there is a “spectrum” of functionality for individuals with Down syndrome, claiming those that are low-functioning would need to be institutionalized. She clearly missed the survey of thousands of parents published in 2011. It found that regardless of where their children fell on Camerota’s spectrum, parents overwhelmingly answered that they love their child with Down syndrome and are proud of them.

Camerota then cited data from the CDC claiming that raising a child with Down syndrome could cost twelve times more than a child without the condition. Though the source study was not cited, presumably Camerota was referencing this webpage from the CDC citing a study from 2008. What she failed to say, however, was that CDC noted that the increased costs were for medical care only, not total costs of raising a child, and then only for the first four years of a child’s life. Moreover, research from 2015 shows that when the medical costs were amortized over the life of the child to age 18, the out-of-pocket costs for parents were on-average about $84/month–essentially $21 a week or $3 a day, the difference between making a cup of coffee at home and purchasing a coffeehouse latte.

Camerota’s argument that if a life costs more than another, then that more costly life should be ended is ethically galling (and begs the question of what other costly lives CNN and Camerota think are appropriate to use abortion as a cost-saving measure). But what’s even worse, she makes the argument based on misrepresented statistics on the cost of a child with Down syndrome. There is a world of difference between “twelve times more” and “$3 a day more.” I wonder if Camerota would have even made her galling argument if she had known the correct amount. It seems broadcast integrity would mandate that you have the correct dollar figure before suggesting there are lives that may be too costly to be born.

Being a parent whose daughter has Down syndrome, I would be in that 99% majority of parents who love their child with Down syndrome. Juliet more than makes up for any additional cost in medical care–be it $3 a day or twelve times more–with what she adds by being a part of this world, and it cheapens her life to even have to make that monetary justification. If I were an expectant parent, being counseled by my medical provider or tuning into a CNN interview, I would hope those who talk about Down syndrome and my decision would make sure they give me accurate information. Camerota and CNN did not.

I’ve shared this post and my concerns with Camerota via her twitter account, where she can be reached: @AlysinCamerota.

Comments

  1. In a way I am glad the real issue is out in the open here. Screening and selection are not about women’s choices, in fact since abortion for Down syndrome is so accepted women like me have to justify having children with Down syndrome. It’s not about freedom or religion either; it’s about the money and prejudices. Now that we’ve got this straigthened out; even if Camerota is quoting the right figures does that mean that all kids who cost money should be aborted? How about if they cost more after birth? What to do with them then? I am all for information and counseling. Information for ALL prospective parents: kids cost money, no-one knows how much a particular child will cost in money, attention or care because there are no guarantees before or after birth. It should be a Surgeon general’s warning.

  2. I have read about how children with Down Syndrome seem to bring joy to the lives of their families even more than children with other conditions, but with that said, I’m afraid something else is going on that may explain these high numbers. Down Syndrome can be found early in development when the pregnancy can be terminated, or shortly after birth when the couple can give the baby up for adoption. Because of this I’m afraid DS is being self selected by couples who know they and their family have the means and mindset to care for their needs, and if this is happening it will skew what most families would say about having a child or sibling with those setbacks. If I am correct and this Ohio bill is enforced, I’m afraid the divorce rate for DS could become just as high for other disabilities.

    • Read elsewhere here on the blog about the Ohio bill. You shouldn’t be too worried about the divorce rate increasing in Ohio because it is highly unlikely anything will be done to enforce the law by the state.

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  1. […] Ohio bill has received a lot of coverage, notably from the New York Times. It has also received its fair share of commentary, including […]

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