Pro-life Americans are applauding Gerber’s selection of a Down syndrome child for its 2018 “Spokesbaby of the Year” in a time when many unborn babies are aborted after being diagnosed with the condition.
Lucas Warren, 18 months, was selected out of 140,000 photographs that were submitted to the popular baby food company’s annual cute baby contest. His parents state that they entered the contest on a whim, uploading to Instagram a photo they took of their smiling son wearing his church clothes—polka dot bow tie and all.
“We got back home, and I thought he looked so adorable in the outfit, and I just decided to snap a quick picture of it,” Warren’s mother, Cortney, told PEOPLE.
Gerber has held its spokesbaby contest since 2010, and this year marks the first that a Down syndrome child was selected.
“Lucas’ winning smile and joyful expression won our hearts this year, and we are all thrilled to name him our 2018 spokesbaby,” CEO Bill Partyka said in a statement. “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.”
Lucas will be featured in Gerber’s social media campaigns throughout the year, and his family will receive $50,000, which will go toward Lucas’ education.
The Warrens hope that their son will be a reminder that children with Down syndrome are bundles of love and joy who should no less be accepted in society.
“He may have Down syndrome, but he’s always Lucas first,” Cortney outlined to TODAY Parents. “He’s got an awesome personality and he goes through the milestones of every child. … We’re hoping when he grows up and looks back on this, he’ll be proud of himself and not ashamed of his disability.”
“We’re hoping this will impact everyone—that it will shed a little bit of light on the special needs community and help more individuals with special needs be accepted and not limited,” her husband Jason also remarked. “They have the potential to change the world, just like everybody else.”
It is estimated that 80-90 percent of American mothers who receive a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to abort. Therefore, pro-lifers have applauded the selection of Warren as the Gerber spokesbaby in hopes that it might help change hearts and minds.
“[W]hile most Americans may not yet take a consistently pro-life view, the vast majority rightly sense that Lucas Warren had every right to come into the world—and that the world is a happier place with him in it,” the editors of the Weekly Standard wrote on Feb. 8.
“At a time when babies with Down syndrome face deadly discrimination in the womb, Lucas’s role as the Gerber Spokesbaby highlights the humanity of all babies,” also remarked Texas Right to Life in a blog post. “Prenatal genetic testing has led to an alarming increase in the number of babies with Down syndrome killed in abortion simply because they are seen as less than perfect. In some anti-life countries, almost all babies with Down syndrome are killed in abortion.”
“As the father of a son with special needs, I have always been an advocate and a champion for this population, who have taught me so much over the years,” likewise wrote Dr. Manny Alvarez for Fox News. “In 2014, I criticized an Australian couple’s choice to abandon their newborn child in Thailand after the surrogate gave birth to him and they learned he had Down syndrome. And more recently, in 2017, I was heartbroken over a report from CBS that claimed Iceland had ‘nearly eliminated Down syndrome’ in their country.”
“As a high-risk obstetrician for over 30 years, I’ve come to realize that despite the efforts of the National Down Syndrome Society and other groups working to raise awareness, there are still many people who don’t know what Down syndrome is. In order to keep moving in the direction of acceptance and understanding, it’s important that we continue to educate the public about these special children,” he said.
The Warrens similarly state that they hope their son will help to provide encouragement to present and future parents of Down syndrome children.
“There are a lot of families out there who’ve become frightened or afraid because they don’t know,” Jason Warren told Today. “We’re hoping they can see Lucas and just get a glimpse of what all their child can do.”