Ethan Saylor, Down Syndrome, and Human Dignity: Why babies with Down syndrome are still being aborted

Earlier this year, a young man with Down syndrome named Robert Ethan Saylor was killed. He lived in Frederick, Maryland, and one night, he wanted to see a movie. After it ended, he wanted to see it again, and so he stayed in the movie theater. Off-duty police officers working at the theater were called, and it was these police officers who were responsible for his death. He died due to positional asphyxia, something that a police department spokesperson admitted they were trained to avoid.

Ever since this senseless death happened, questions as to how Ethan could have died have been raised. The three police officers responsible kept their jobs. An internal investigation, conducted by the police department itself, took place, and no information was released – not to the family, and not to the public. Some documents are finally coming to light, though, and revealing an even more horrific side to this already tragic story.

Ethan went to the movies that evening with a caretaker, an 18-year-old woman who was one of a number of aides who worked with the Saylor family to help Ethan have as normal a life as possible. And she explained to authorities in the investigation what happened.

Ethan, due to his mental disability, sometimes had angry outbursts. When the movie ended, he liked it so much that he stood up and clapped, and then wanted to see it a second time. When they went to leave the theater, he got angry. His aide called his mother and another caretaker who told her to give him a few minutes to calm down. While the aide went to get the car, Ethan returned to the theater. When she went to get him, the manager confronted her. She tried to explain that they were having an issue and that she was going to take care of it, but the manager still went and got police officers. And that is where the story takes a turn for the worst.

“Then the sheriff went in and started talking to Ethan and Ethan was cursing at him,” the woman wrote, adding that the officer threatened to arrest Saylor. “I then said, ‘Please don’t touch him, he will freak out.’”

An autopsy report said that Saylor did not like to be touched and suddenly the deputies had their hands on him. The 294-pound man flailed, cursed and cried for his mother, according to witness accounts.

The aide heard Ethan crying and screaming, telling them not to touch him. And then suddenly, everything stopped.

As the deputies tried to restrain and lead Saylor from the theater, the four fell in a heap on a slightly inclined ramp and, during a struggle, the deputies placed three sets of handcuffs on him. When Saylor suddenly grew quiet and unresponsive, the deputies removed the handcuffs and administered CPR.

The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore ruled Saylor’s death a homicide as a result of asphyxia. There was unexplained damage to his larynx.

Witnesses reported seeing a deputy with his knee on Ethan’s back. The medical examiner listed his cause of death as homicide. According to the autopsy, his voicebox was fractured, and his lungs had filled with blood. The autopsy also showed that he had a number of bruises, cuts, and abrasions.

Did I mention that the police officers responsible, who ignored the warnings of Ethan’s aide, received no punishment and are still working today?

Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the appalling number of babies with Down syndrome who are aborted. Consider the reaction to the murder of Ethan Saylor. There has been very little attention paid to it, outside Down syndrome communities and organizations. Many people who are familiar with the story side with the police. The aide should have handled it better, they say. He shouldn’t have been in a public place. Or they say, He was a 300-pound man with Down syndrome; of course the police had to get physical with him.

He deserved it. He should have stayed home. That’s the reaction when people read this story. The astounding lack of compassion and willingness to extend basic human dignity towards another human being, simply because he has a disability or mental illness, is terrifying. Ethan Saylor was a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome who was treated like an animal, and the people responsible left with no repercussions whatsoever. Most people don’t know about this tragedy, and a good number of the ones who do think the officers did nothing wrong.

If no one bats an eye when a man with a disability is treated like an animal, then why would anyone care about the slaughter of unborn children with Down syndrome? People learn about the homicide of a man with Down syndrome, over the price of a movie ticket, and think he brought it on himself – for being mentally disabled, for being out in public, for having the nerve to get angry at police officers.

We put such low value on the lives of those with disabilities, robbing them of basic human dignity at every turn. Heaven forbid they go out in public, because they may not act “correctly.” Heaven forbid they get angry over something, because people with Down syndrome are supposed to be little balls of happiness and sunshine 24/7. Heaven forbid someone who doesn’t always know how to act “normally” think he deserves to be treated just like the rest of us.

Is it any wonder, then, that when a mother gets a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome or another disability or birth defect, her first instinct is to kill her baby?

Stopping the Down syndrome holocaust isn’t about stopping advanced prenatal testing. It will take more than just getting more information and resources out there. If we are going to stop the murders of these defenseless children, then we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves. Many pro-lifers advocate for unborn children with Down syndrome, but if we aren’t also trying to change hearts and minds – to show others that people with disabilities also deserve respect, dignity, and compassion – then we will be failing them.

  • BigFacts1

    A Hate-Crime by Any Other Politically Correct Name

    The recent homicide of Ethan Saylor at the hands of three “off-duty” Frederick
    County, Maryland, sheriff’s deputies is a perfect example of the selective
    prosecution strategies practiced by the Obama Administration’s Department of

    Now, months after Ethan Saylor was murdered (the coroner ruled it a homicide), Frederick County, Maryland, sheriff Charles Jenkins refuses to provide the media and the public with the findings of an internal investigation which allowed the three murderers to return to full duty as law enforcement officers. The sheriff’s office has ignored all FOIA requests for information regarding the internal investigation and the
    original incident reports. Additionally, the Frederick County, Maryland, state’s
    attorney Charles Smith has likewise ignored all FOIA requests for information
    regarding his investigation and the subsequent Grand Jury proceedings.

    Public statements by these two individuals however, suggest that their handling of these matters warrants a DOJ investigation of a hate crime and a prosecution of the three deputies who committed the homicide. According to the National Down Syndrome Congress “The Frederick County Sheriff and State’s Attorney have already expressed their views that having Down Syndrome was the sole contributor to Mr. Saylor’s death , rather than the security guards’ responses to Mr. Saylor, an individual with Down syndrome.”

    Let’s assume that many readers don’t agree with my interpretation of this as
    a hate crime. I’ll rephrase that sentence so that we can view this in a more
    politically correct light.

    The Frederick County Sheriff and State’s Attorney have already expressed their views that being black was the sole contributor to Mr. JONES death, rather than the
    security guards’ responses to Mr. JONES, a black skinned individual.

    Does it sound like hate-speech now? Of course it does, but let’s go ahead and try another politically correct version.

    The Frederick County Sheriff and State’s Attorney have already expressed their views that being gay was the sole contributor to Mr. JONES death, rather than the
    security guards’ responses to Mr. JONES, a gay individual.

    The FBI website provides the following definition of a hate-crime:

    “A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.””

    Certainly the murder of Ethan Saylor fits this definition as a bias against persons with Down syndrome as evidenced by the statements and actions of the Frederick County sheriff and state’s attorney.

    Statements made by Daniel Karp, attorney for sheriff Jenkins, when he said “the three deputies who restrained Ethan Saylor took action based on their training and their
    perception of the situation” confirm this bias. Ethan Saylor’s care-giver advised
    the sheriff’s deputies that Ethan Saylor had Down syndrome, so this must have
    been a part of their “perception of the situation.” Their subsequent killing of
    Ethan Saylor demonstrates an extreme bias.

    Assuming that the Obama administration and its Attorney General, Eric Holder, decide that the public statements of Frederick, Maryland, authorities and their refusal to follow federal laws concerning FOIA requests isn’t enough to prosecute them for hate-crimes, they may choose instead to consider how Ethan Saylor’s civil rights were violated under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The federal government’s official website for the ADA explains exactly who is considered to have a disability within the context of the ADA:

    Sec. 12102. Definition of disability
    As used in this chapter:
    (1) Disability
    The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual
    (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
    (B) a record of such an impairment; or
    (C) being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)). http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm

    Even the most ardent skeptic would acknowledge that Ethan Saylor had a “mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities” and the sheriff’s deputies who committed the homicide would necessarily have been obliged to regard Ethan “as having such an impairment” because his care-giver had advised them of this fact multiple times.

    But what does this mean for Ethan Saylor and the people who killed him? The Americans with Disabilities Act also spells out exactly what is required of government entities to ensure that all people with disabilities have equal opportunity:


    Sec. 12132. Discrimination

    Subject to the provisions of this subchapter, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm

    The principle service provided by any local law enforcement agency is protection of persons and property. The Frederick, Maryland, sheriff’s office was legally obligated under the ADA to provide Ethan Saylor with the same protection provided to any person. If Ethan Saylor had been in a wheel chair would the deputies have thrown him to the ground to handcuff him?

    The Obama White House and its Attorney General, Eric Holder, need to start providing equal protection under the law, as provided for in the U.S. Constitution.

    And how does all of this apply to the protection of children and the abortion issue? Well this post has gotten a bit long winded, so I’ll address that issue in another post.
    Believe me; this topic definitely applies to those urgent issues.

  • Name

    It is tragic that this death occurred. However, we have to remember that the police officers, while overreacting, saw an angry 300 pound man who was likely out of control. Hindsight is always 20/20, but in a theater late at night, the officers saw what they saw, and did what they did. Unfortunately, a man lost his life.

    • BigFacts1

      They saw a man with a disability, the same disability that the care-giver described. They saw him react the same way that the care-giver said he would react. If he had been in a wheelchair would they still have thrown him to the ground to hand cuff him? No, they probably would have changed there behavior based on the disability. So why didn’t they adjust their behavior based on Ethan Saylor’s disability?

    • YouMustBeADeputysRelative

      They saw a person who very obviously had Down Syndrome, quietly looking at his phone, not angry or out of control, not disturbing anyone, until they got in his face and provoked him to curse at them. Then the 3 of them grabbed him by both arms and pulled him up out of his seat, at which point he “freaked out”, just as his assistant told them he would. Unfortunately they killed him with their ill-advised bully tactics.

  • Patricia Keys

    Where is the public outcry? Where are the riots and protests? If Ethan had been black and the policemen white it would have been a different story. Down’s Syndrome is just as easy to identify as a person in a wheelchair. They are very easy to control if you use a calm voice. It breaks my heart every time I read the story.

  • Conor
  • Peter Angleos

    Cassy, when you get your head out of your rectum, please let us know.

    • BigFacts1

      The easiest way to concede that you can’t refute the logic is to resort to personal attacks and insults. We graciously accept your concession to the logic of the article.

    • mmom

      I can’t believe you said that! Where is your head ? Obviously not in use!

  • deb

    I have never had children, yet God has decided that His work for me is to defend the unborn. Due to the fact I have abortion in my past, I am a good example of a bad example. I give talks to parents on how to talk to their children about abortion. Down Syndrome children are included. My nephew is severally autistic. What if they had known this before he was born? I understand the prenatal tests may be important, but they have become the decision makers to get rid of the “unwanted.” God bless you for keeping us informed on this issue. We need to stick together. There’s more information than one person can possibly keep up with.