Challenging the Culture of Death: Gerber’s 2018 Spokesbaby
For nearly a decade Gerber has conducted an annual search for their Gerber baby. This fresh face every year complements the iconic Gerber baby logo that adorns their product lines. This past Wednesday on the “Today Show” Gerber announced that Lucas Warren, a 1-year-old boy from Dalton, Georgia is the 2018 Gerber baby, and he has Down syndrome. This is the first time in the contest’s history that a child with Down syndrome was selected to represent the company.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 7, 2018
Bill Partyka, President and CEO of Gerber, stated, “Lucas’ winning smile and joyful expression won our hearts this year, and we are all thrilled to name him our 2018 Spokesbaby. Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby, and this year, Lucas is the perfect fit.” As the winner of the contest, Lucas’ family receives $50,000 and he will be front and center on the company’s social media platforms.
What makes this announcement so interesting is the fact that Down syndrome births have been steadily decreasing through the years. This is not due to the fact that medical technology has found a cure for Down syndrome. Instead, a higher percentage of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome are being aborted. CBS News reports that the estimated abortion rate of Down syndrome children in the United States is 67%. In France the rate is 77%, 98% in Denmark, and Iceland is almost 100%.
The situation in Iceland is particularly disturbing. Even though the population in that country is small compared the United States, they have effectively eliminated the birth of Down syndrome babies through prenatal testing. Kari Stefansson, the founder of the company that has studied the Icelandic population is not comfortable with the results. CBS News further reports:
Geneticist Kari Stefansson is the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population’s genomes. He has a unique perspective on the advancement of medical technology. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society—that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” he said.
Quijano asked Stefansson, “What does the 100 percent termination rate, you think, reflect about Icelandic society?”
“It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” he said. “And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. . . . You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.”
Stefansson noted, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”
The situation in Iceland (and other parts of the world) reflects the reality that society does not value life, especially when that life appears to depart from ordinary expectations. While children with Down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities may face some difficult medical and developmental challenges, they are still people made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” All human beings bear inherent worth before God because they are made in his image; therefore, they also deserve the right to live as image bearers in the world God has created. Aborting a child with Down syndrome denies this inherent value.
Gerber should be commended for naming Lucas as their 2018 spokesbaby. They are pushing back against the culture of death in society. Lucas’ mother, Cortney Warren, states, “This is such a proud moment for us as parents knowing that Lucas has a platform to spread joy, not only to those he interacts with every day, but to people all over the country. We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have the potential to change the world—just like our Lucas!” May we come alongside them and affirm that all humans are valuable, and every child deserves the right to life.
Evan Lenow is Associate Professor of Ethics, Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, and Director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics and a Master of Divinity with Advanced Biblical Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Read more from Dr. Lenow at www.evanlenow.com and follow him on Twitter at @evanlenow.