Monday, November 14, 2016

France upholds ban on Down syndrome ad: Children too 'happy'

By Louise Kinross

In an extraordinary decision, the Council of State in France has upheld the decision of the country's TV regulator to prevent this video, whose message is that children with Down syndrome can be happy, from being seen on French TV.

The ad, launched by Italy's CoorDown and Satchi & Satchi for World Down Syndrome Day in 2014, has been viewed on Youtube over 7 million times. It won six awards at the 2014 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The idea for the ad came when CoorDown received an e-mail from an expectant mother whose child had been diagnosed with Down syndrome: "I'm scared," she wrote. "What kind of life will my child have?"

The ad, called Dear Future Mom, is a response from a number of children and teens with Down syndrome. "Your child can be happy" is the message. "He'll be able to hug you" says one young man. "He'll be able to go to school" says another young woman, "and work and earn his money" say two girls.

In June of 2014, the French TV regulator said it was "likely to be controversial" and was not "a message of general interest." Earlier that year several French channels had aired an excerpt free of charge at the request of Down syndrome associations.

According to Fondation Jérôme Lejeune, a French Down syndrome research and advocacy group, the original decision to censor the ad came after complaints from two women who had terminated pregnancies due to a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. They issued a news release last week suggesting the Council of State wanted to hide pictures of children with Down syndrome who look happy.

The TV regulator considered the ad's message likely to "disturb the consciences of women who, in accordance with the law," had chosen to have abortions, this article in Le Monde reports.

Jérôme Lejeune had asked the Council of State to intervene on the regulator's ban. It says it will bring the matter to the European Court of Human Rights and argue that people with Down syndrome have a right to express their happiness without censorship.


For once, I don't even know what to say. This makes me feel overwhelmingly sad, not just for my son's Down syndrome community, but for a world that is moving more and more towards the exclusion of 'the other' and a world that does not celebrate (never mind value or even tolerate) diversity of many kinds, including intellectual disability.

Prenatal screening rates are high in many European countries, including France: Women deserve to have as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision about screening, testing and termination...and that includes information about what it is like to have a child with a disability. This commercial offers a sliver of an insight into that life - by banning it, they are denying women the information to make a truly informed choice.

I had a conversation once with a friend of mine who is French, who is currently about 40 years old. He had no memory of kids with special needs in his community or schools growing up, and didn't know where the children would have been educated. He was genuinely puzzled by this model, once I asked about it.

I am appalled. I have a child with Autism and I recall with each pregnancy we were asked if we wanted Down Syndrome screening, and every time we said no, the child would arrive in their own way and we would not interfere. It is sad that an ad like this should be legally banned because of the decision some people made to go against the grain. So it makes them feel guilty, that is GOOD!, but it was their decision. Ask almost any parent of a child with Down Syndrome and they will all answer that their kids are just as happy as any other child. The only people who are not happy are those who feel guilty for not giving their own child the chance, or themselves to find out how happy a Down Syndrome child can be. Shame on those who banned the ad :(