Real Life Disconnect: 4 leaf clovers are good luck while extra chromosomes are cause for abortion? Print
Written by Marie Bowen   

clover4 leaf clovers are prized. My Grandmother was great at spotting them and I collected several as a child. The extra leaf makes a clover more valuable, treasured, and cherished. Why, then, I cannot help but wonder, is an extra chromosome in a human being—rather than being perceived as a rare gift—considered by 75-90% of parents as cause for abortion?

Wikipedia says this about 4 leaf clovers: The four-leaf clover is an uncommon variation of the common, three-leaved clover. According to tradition, such leaves bring good luck to their finders, especially if found accidentally. In addition, each leaf is believed to represent something: the first is for faith, the second is for hope, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck.[1]

It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000[2] three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover.[2]

The National Down Syndrome Society says this about Down syndrome:

In 1959, the French physician Jérôme Lejeune identified Down syndrome as a chromosomal condition. Instead of the usual 46 chromosomes present in each cell, Lejeune observed 47 in the cells of individuals with Down syndrome. It was later determined that an extra partial or whole copy of chromosome 21 results in the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

According to The NDSS and The National Association for Down syndrome (NADS), one in 691 babies is born with Down syndrome.

Often babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted even though screening tests for Down syndrome are notoriously inaccurate, giving both false negatives and false positives. Amniocentesis (testing usually 12-20 weeks) is a more accurate for diagnosis but is more invasive, involving risk to both mother and baby. When Down syndrome is diagnosed by any method, doctors often suggest abortion. Some medical providers believe it is their duty to present abortion as one option, but others apply pressure to influence the parents toward an abortion decision.

One woman recently shared her story with me. When she resisted the doctor's suggestion that she abort her child after a Down syndrome diagnosis he grew angry and told her it would be "irresponsible to have this child." She found another doctor. Her baby was born without Down syndrome. There are many such stories, but tragically many women interpret a doctor's advice to abort (especially if pressure is applied) as a medical necessity or the "responsible" decision.

Dig a little deeper. Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, view a diagnosis of Down syndrome as something to grieve, a hardship, a tragedy. A child with Down syndrome does bring unexpected challenges, perhaps health issues, a more extended period of care, a certain death of our own dreams for our child. On the other hand, if you have ever known a child with Down syndrome, you also know the incredible gifts they offer of generous love, childish delight, ready acceptance, and wholehearted forgiveness.

Back to my opening question – Why is rarity good luck when it is a clover and a tragedy when it is a person? Both are created by God. The beautiful poetry of Psalm 139 is unmistakably clear:

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

God forms each human being in the womb. It seems pretty clear that when an extra chromosome is present it is God that has "knit" that chromosome into a unique pattern creating a special human being. It is surely cause for celebration.

You and I are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are not accidents and neither is the baby with Down syndrome. God has seen every day of your life, mine, and each baby. Each life is one to be received with joy and those whose formation is rare should be considered most precious of all!


Dedicated to Donnah Bowen, a wonderful lady, a gift from God in my life, my sister-in-law, who has Down syndrome by God's design. Her beautiful rich voice singing "Amazing Grace" as she grieved the loss of her father a few years ago, touched my soul and left me changed. She will celebrate 65 years of life on March 20, 2015.