Fact-checking sensational headlines is more important than ever, and I just discovered how hard that can be.

It started when my daughter posted a link to this petition requesting the government of France to lift its ban on showing this heart-warming video about children with Down Syndrome on French television.

From the petition page:

The State Council in France just affirmed a ruling that bans the video on the grounds that it is “inappropriate.” They argue that allowing people with Down syndrome to smile is “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.”

Essentially, France is telling people with Down syndrome that they do not have a right to show their happiness in the public sphere. This decision is discriminatory, and it violates the rights of individuals with Down syndrome.

That's certainly weird enough to require fact-checking. With the Internet, that should be easy, right?

Snopes made no mention of it whatsoever. Ditto for truthorfiction.com. Google News, however, was replete with articles. The trouble was that most of them were from sources that I knew many of my readers would reject, unread, without a second thought. And then there were the headlines:

France bans video because children with Down syndrome are "inappropriate"

France to ban people with Down syndrome from smiling

French TV Bans Smiling Down Syndrome Children--Might ‘Disturb’ Post-Abortive Women

French court bans TV ad showing happy kids with Down syndrome

Don't they just scream "clickbait" and the kind of story that must be misleading if not actually false? But my daughter had posted the link ... and she almost never does anything like that, certainly not unless she's sure of her sources.

I'm not surprised that the first sources I found were from right-wing publications—plus the Catholic Church, which is often left-wing, but not when it comes to anything that touches abortion. But to find the truth, I felt I needed to consult a source that was, if not neutral, at least biased in the other direction.

Enter the Huffington Post. Not that I trust everything they print, not at all. But I trust their liberal bias, which was exactly what I needed. And here it is, in the words of a mother of three children, two of whom have Down syndrome. Here are some excerpts, but it's worth reading the whole article.

Last week another big step was taken towards the mass persecution of children with Down syndrome. On November 10th, the French ‘State Counsel’ rejected an appeal made by people with Down syndrome, their families and allies to lift the ban on broadcasting the award winning “Dear Future Mom” video on French television. The ban was previously imposed by the French Broadcasting Counsel. Kids who are unjustly described as a ‘risk’ before they are born, are now wrongfully portrayed as a ‘risk’ after birth too.

The video features a number of young people from around the globe telling about their lives. Their stories reflect today’s reality of living with Down syndrome and aims to reassure women who have received a prenatal diagnosis. Their message of hope takes away the fears and questions these women may have, often based on outdated stereotypes.

[O]ur kids, whom studies from the USA and the Netherlands have proven to be much happier than the cranky, sulky bunch who go through life without Down syndrome, are banned from public television because their happy faces make post-abortion women feel uncomfortable. Women must continue to believe in the myth that society and medical professionals portray; that Down syndrome is a life of suffering, a burden to their family and society.

What’s next? Will kids with Down syndrome be banned from school? Will they be segregated from society and placed in institutions like in the old days, because their presence upsets post-abortion parents? See this ban is akin to putting people with Down syndrome away because their presence ‘confronts’ society with the reality of their systematic eradication. Eradication not to ‘prevent suffering’, but because authorities have decided that their differences place a burden on our lives and society. ... Let’s show them the truth that families with Down syndrome have an enormous good quality of life. Let’s show a future of hope, unconditional love and yes, a lot of smiles and happiness.

While Lejeune Foundation takes the matter to the European Court for Human Rights the French press has remained quiet about it. A petition has started to ask the French government to intervene. Please sign, support and share happiness!

I am not much of a petition-signer, and I generally believe that what is shown on French television is none of my business. But I think I'm going to sign this one, because I believe this policy has crossed a line. Will they ban smiling "typical" children from TV because they might disturb anyone who has aborted a healthy child? If not, that is certainly discrimination based solely on handicapped status.

My heart grieves for anyone who has suffered the loss of a child, and I have known those times when the sight of happy children was painful. When our first grandchild died two days after his birth, just before the Christmas season, all those songs about a newborn baby boy were more than a little hard to take. But our own particular griefs are no excuse for taking away another's happiness, and if aborting Down syndrome babies is likely to cause such trauma and regret with regard to what might have been, maybe we should take another look at how we approach that decision.

But that's another issue.  Regardless of one's position on when in the gestation process a life becomes fully human and deserving of our compassion and protection, regarding a handicapped person as subhuman puts us on the same level as the eugenicists of a hundred years ago, or the worst of the Nazis.  I don't think France really wants to go there.

Any of my readers who know more about this story—particularly those of you who live or have lived in France—please chime in with what it looks like from the French point of view.  I know there's almost always another side to a story.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 26, 2016 at 7:32 pm | Edit
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