Bill to improve Down syndrome information introduced in Nova Scotia

17/04/2024 / Featured 

On March 21, Nova Scotia Liberal MLA Keith Irving introduced Bill 440: Harvey’s Law. This bill is named after a young boy with Down syndrome named Harvey, whose mother Sarah Valiquette-Thompson has been advocating for the bill. MLA Irving introduced an identical bill back in 2021 in Nova Scotia, and a similar bill called Harvey and Gurvir’s Law was also introduced in Ontario by MPP Sara Singh in 2021.  

Harvey’s Law focuses on the need for accurate, up-to-date information on Down syndrome. This information would be available to the public, and also be given directly to parents facing a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for their child.

As we shared on Down Syndrome Day in March, international studies consistently find that up 90% of pre-born children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Supporters have shared stories with us of pressure to abort following a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. Harvey’s mother Sarah faced these same questions about abortion, along with negative comments about everything her son would be unable to do as someone with Down syndrome – many of which she learned through her own research were not even true.

Harvey’s Law (Bill 440) would be a positive step in prioritizing support for families of children with Down syndrome and helping people see ability rather than disability. It could be strengthened further with the addition of a waiting period, which was included in the Ontario version of this bill. A waiting period gives parents time to process a prenatal diagnosis, seek information, and find support before being offered further testing or an abortion.

Bill 440 would require the provincial Minister of Health and Wellness to ensure that current, evidence-based information on Down syndrome is available to members of the public. This would include data on life expectancy and cognitive and physical development. It would also include information about resources and supports available to those who have a family member with Down syndrome. When a health professional communicates a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome to expectant parents, they would be required to give them the up-to-date information.  

If you live in Nova Scotia, send your MLA a SimpleMail asking them to support Bill 440! If you live in another province, ask your MLA or MPP to introduce similar legislation in your province. In a culture that so readily aborts pre-born children with Down syndrome, Canadians need to change their mindset about children with a fetal abnormality.

You can read more about this topic in our position paper on Aborting Those Who Are Different.

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