A&E's 'Born This Way' saving unborn lives, changing hearts on Down syndrome

by Michael Foust |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – It is not often that a television program literally saves lives, but in the case of A&E's Born This Way, that's exactly what's happening.

Heading into its second season and premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern, the docu-series follows the lives of seven adults with Down syndrome as they live their lives – playing sports, writing songs and even starting a business. In other words, they're doing the same things the rest of society does, each day.

One of the stars of the reality program is Sean McElwee, whose mother, Sandra, has written three books about the family's journey. She told the Christian Examiner about two pregnant women who contracted her on social media and decided not to have an abortion after watching the show.

"I received a message from one mother who had a positive blood test [for Down syndrome] and she was scheduled for an amniocentesis, and decided to cancel it," McElwee said. "She was fine if her baby had Down syndrome after seeing, with her own two eyes, what the possibilities for the future were. I had another mom who had an abortion scheduled and cancelled it after seeing the show. To me, those two lives right there are worth everything."

The Christian Examiner spoke with McElwee about her hope for the show's second season. Following is a partial transcript:

Christian Examiner: Why is this show needed in America today?

Sandra McElwee: In order for people to not be afraid of people with disabilities, they need to get to know them. And most people don't have anybody in their lives with Down syndrome. By watching Born This Way, they're actually getting to know adults with Down syndrome, from the comfort of their couch. By knowing them, it removes the fear of people with Down syndrome – knowing that they're like anybody else.

CE: What preconceptions do people have about people with Down syndrome?

McElwee: Most people think that people with Down syndrome aren't capable, and that's very false. They just need opportunities, and with the opportunities they really can show what they can do and what their capabilities are. And that's really the biggest key – having the opportunity. Since Season 1 aired, it's definitely opened up opportunities for many people with Down Syndrome, and hopefully will continue to open up more.

CE: What advice would you give parents who are raising children with Down syndrome?

McElwee: Raise your child and support their interests. Don't raise the disability. You're not raising Down syndrome. You're raising your child. Support their dreams. ... At one point Sean wanted to be an L.A. Laker, and I said, "I've never seen a five foot, one inch L.A. Laker, but go out and practice and shoot baskets, because if you want to be a Laker you better practice."

Born This Way is rated TV-PG (language, dialogue).