New Down Syndrome Information Law Introduced in Nova Scotia



April 16, 2024
Available in Audio Format:

On March 21, Liberal MLA Keith Irving introduced Bill 440: Harvey’s Law in Nova Scotia. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Irving introduced an identical bill back in 2021. A similar bill, Harvey and Gurvir’s Law, was also introduced in Ontario in 2021.

Bill 440 would require the Minister of Health and Wellness to ensure that up-to-date, evidence-based information on Down syndrome is available to members of the public. This information must include elements such as life expectancy, cognitive and physical development, and education and psychosocial outcomes for people with Down syndrome. It would also include information about resources and supports available to those who have a family member with Down syndrome. Further, when a health professional communicates a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome to expectant parents, they must give them the up-to-date information relating to Down syndrome.

Irving introduced this bill because of a local family’s difficulty getting balanced information about Down syndrome after learning that their son, Harvey, had Down syndrome. Following the prenatal diagnosis, Harvey’s mother Sarah was referred for multiple tests. Throughout this process, she was told by various health professionals about things Harvey would be unable to do and questioned about why she would not get an abortion.

It was only through their own research that Harvey’s parents learned that their son would be able to thrive. Many of the things they were told Harvey would be unable to do were factually incorrect. Because of the challenges in accessing accurate information, and the desire to save other families from the same problem, Harvey’s mother began advocating for Harvey’s Law, first in Ontario, and more recently in Nova Scotia.

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. People need to know that children with Down syndrome are valued, live meaningful lives, and that there are supports for any additional challenges that may arise.

Although Bill 440 would do nothing to restrict abortion, it would help to change the tone of conversations that parents have with their healthcare providers. Instead of approaching the situation negatively, doctors would be required to provide objective information about the life of people with Down syndrome and the supports available. It’s a step in the right direction, and we hope to see such a bill introduced in legislatures across the country.

You can read more about this topic in We Need a Law’s position paper Aborting Those Who Are Different. 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.

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