Mikayla Holmgren couldn't have had a more difficult start. She was born six weeks premature, she was missing an esophagus, and she was diagnosed with Down syndrome. In the 22 years since her birth, however, Mikayla hasn't simply walked through life, she's charged through it.
A dancer and a gymnast, Holmgren has shown a desire for the spotlight, according to the Star Tribune:
[She] competes solo and with the dance team at Bethel University, where she's in her first year of a two-year postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities.
Having conquered gymnastics and dance, Mikayla has decided to take on another challenge – the Miss Minnesota USA pageant:
When Holmgren takes the stage later this year, she will be the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the state pageant, and as far as pageant officials know, the first in the country.
The Star Tribune quotes Holmgren: "I want the whole world to see that I can do things that are hard and that people with Down syndrome are beautiful and talented."
Mikayla is also blessed with loving parents, who value her humanity above all else:
"From the start, my husband and I decided that she's a child first and the Down syndrome is secondary," Sandi Holmgren said. "We never said that she can't do this because she has Down syndrome; instead we asked, 'Why not?' "
Around the world, a movement is gaining steam; one that not only accepts individuals diagnosed with Down syndrome, but pushes the boundaries of what was once thought unachievable.
Mikayla Holmgren is competing in a statewide pageant; Guatemalan clothing designer, Isabella Springmühl, was the first person with Down syndrome to showcase designs at London Fashion Week; model and designer, Madeline Stuart, launched her personal clothing line at New York Fashion Week last February; Melissa Reilly is a gold medal-winning Special Olympian; Angela Bachiller is a councilwoman in Spain; Tim Harris owns his own restaurant and recently started a nonprofit; Michael Johnson is a folk artist; Christian Royal makes and designs gorgeous pottery. Their stories can be read here.
Those mentioned above are simply some of the more well-known individuals who haven't allowed their Down syndrome diagnosis to hold them back. There are many others who hold down steady jobs, live on their own, and enjoy life to the fullest. Yes, some are debilitated by their condition and must be taken care of by a parent or guardian – but this doesn't lessen their intrinsic value as human beings.
Alongside this developing movement celebrating the humanity of those with Down syndrome is a chilling counter-movement which seeks to terminate infants prenatally diagnosed with the condition.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute cites a recent study by Gert de Graaf, Frank Buckley, and Brian Skotko, which concludes:
... it is estimated that abortion following a prenatal diagnosis of [Down syndrome] results in a 30% reduction in overall [Down syndrome] births. Jamie Natoli, et al., proposed another statistic that correlates well with this study. In a 2012 publication in Prenatal Diagnosis, their research calculated a weighted mean across the U.S. of a 67% termination rate following prenatal diagnosis.
Such studies are necessary in order to capture an estimated figure because the United States doesn't keep track of abortions that result from a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Other nations do, however. According to the National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register (NDSCR), in the U.K., approximately 90% of infants prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are terminated. In Iceland, the figure is a staggering 100%.
We (in the United States, the U.K., and elsewhere) are encouraging women to abort human beings because they have a mental disability. Mild to severe – it doesn't matter. This is known as eugenics, and it's not simply a choice, it's an act of evil.
Individuals with Down syndrome, whether they walk down a runway or need daily care, are worthy of life. To suggest otherwise is to look these people in the eye, and tell them their lives are without merit. Try telling that to Mikayla Holmgren. Better yet, think about telling that to someone in your life who has Down syndrome, or loves someone who does.