The characteristic markers of Down's Syndrome Credit Vanellus Foto CC By SA 3.0

This is an entirely proper observation, Down’s Syndrome people are indeed an endangered species. Well, perhaps species might be a little extreme, variation upon the standard human species perhaps. There are those, of course, who will say good riddance when it’s done too. Some have advocated – carried out even – killings of those with the condition, others and many more who argue that abortion should be used to stop the birth of any more. And, of course, a more Catholic view that we’re all God’s little creatures and such discrimination is unconscionable. Hey, chacun a son gout as ever with moral issues.

However, it is indeed true that they’re endangered:

As a person with Down syndrome, Harman has appeared in three Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) awareness campaigns. This time, the advocacy group is creating buzz with it’s campaign to get people with Down syndrome added to the endangered species list.

The spot features people with Down syndrome dressed up as threatened species.

Yes, of course it’s an ad campaign. But it’s true enough for all that.

The CDSS launched its “Endangered Syndrome” campaign to coincide with Down syndrome awareness week, Nov. 1-7. In applying to be on the threatened species list, CDSS says it’s advocating for the same kinds of “funding, protections, government intervention and public awareness that species on the Endangered List receive.”

Think of that what you will.

However, it is true that the number of people alive with Down’s is shrinking. There’re two different effects going on.

The first is that we’d actually expect the rate to be rising. For older mothers are more likely to have a child with Down’s and average age of birth is increasing substantially. It’s not – contrary to belief – that eggs deteriorate thus the genetic abnormality is more likely to occur. It’s rather that as reproductive lifespan decreases approaching menopause it’s more likely that a foetus with some genetic disorder will not be rejected by the uterine wall. On the reasonable enough basis that clearing out this fractured one might not mean replacement with a better one as is more likely – in evolutionary terms – in a younger mother. So, why not run with the less than perfect?

So, we expect the number to be rising.

But it’s also true that we’ve good – good enough at least – screening for Down’s these days and a whole heckuva lot of pressure to abort those that fail the tests. Again, think as you wish on this.

The net effect of the two, err, effects, is that the number of people with Down’s is declining over time. Yes, sure, it’s an ad campaign, a piece of public advocacy. It’s also true.

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There’s also the issue that Downs is a genetic copying thing. With people breeding with partners less related to themselves such genetic diseases are being bred out.

In the 1980s I knew somebody with Cystic Fibrosis and we observed that there were fewer people being born with CF at the same time that better life-extending treatments for people with CF was increasing. The CF incidence had started decreasing too early to be linked with pre-term screening, but did seem to coincide with increased personal mobility leading to higher out-breeding, noticable with post-WW2 job mobility and post-1960s education expansion.