NRL News

What’s Airing Today on Pro-Life Perspective? “Life is a Blessing: Reflections on Dr. Jerome Lejeune”

by | Feb 24, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. Jerome Lejeune and friend

It is sad but true. As National Right to Life President and Pro-Life Perspective House Carol Tobias remarks in her opening today,

“It’s very likely you’ve never heard the name Dr. Jerome Lejeune. It’s a sad commentary that, because of his deeply held pro-life views, the community of medical researchers would ostracize (to the point of almost being forgotten by society) the man who discovered Trisomy 21 – the extra chromosome that causes Down Syndrome.”

Dr. Lejeune made his discovery while working in a French lab in 1958 – findings that were published by the French Academy of Sciences.  It was a first —that a disease could come from the genetic code.  “His discovery over 50 years ago changed the way parents, and really the whole world, viewed children born with Down syndrome.” Mrs. Tobias explains.

We learn today that Lejeune’s work on Trisomy led him to continue genetic research and that his discoveries revolutionizing genetics and paved the way for new therapeutic research.  “He traveled and lectured extensively about genetic diseases, continually trying to breakdown stigmas and stereotypes attached to those born with the diseases,” Mrs. Tobias.

However he was horrified as babies identified with Down syndrome were targeted for elimination. Lejeune once wrote, “They brandish chromosomal racism like the flag of freedom…That this rejection of medicine – of the whole biological brotherhood that binds the human family  – should be the only practical application of our knowledge of Trisomy 21 is beyond heartbreaking.”

In taking up the cause of babies with Down syndrome, Dr. Lejeune became an eloquent defender of life. It also caused him to be largely ostracized professionally, as abortion became legalized in Europe and the United States.

His daughter, Clara Lejeune-Gaymard, wrote in her book, “In 1971, he came to the United States and made a speech at the NIH and afterward wrote a message to my mother to say, ‘Today, I have lost my Nobel Prize.’  He addressed the issue of abortion, saying ‘you are forming your institute of health into an institute of death.’ And they hated it.”

Dr. Lejeune would spend the rest of his life advocating for the defenseless.  He died of cancer in 1994.

There is so much more to listen to today at

Be sure to listen and to pass the link along through your social networks.

Clara Lejeuene-Gaymard’s book, “Life is Blessing, is available from the National Catholic Bioethics Center at

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Categories: Down Syndrome