Miss USA Contestant Is a Pro-Life Miracle Smashing the Media’s Narrative

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It’s a dangerous irony. The media are only too happy to praise the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome. But, at the same time, they turn their backs on unborn babies facing abortion – abortion because they’re diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Over the weekend, 22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant.

For her efforts, she was handed the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director’s Award in Minnesota. Not only did she receive a standing ovation, but also she won applause from the media – the media who aren’t always friendly to those with Down syndrome.

From the very beginning, Holmgren defied the odds. She said as much when she posted a baby picture on Facebook in October.

“I am….a miracle,” she wrote in the photo’s caption. “After many years , the doctors told My mom and dad they may never have a baby. I was their little surprise blessing. [sic]”

Not only was she born with epilepsy and part of her esophagus missing, but also she came six weeks early, she said in a speech her mother published earlier this year. “The doctors thought I would never talk or walk,” she added.

At six-years-old, she began her passion: dancing. Today, she attends Bethel University, a Christian school, where she competes with the dance team.

“I like to dance for people because it brightens their day,” Holmgren told Star Tribune. “Down syndrome means I have something special. I can warm hearts.”

She also interns at her university’s child care center. But that isn’t all. Other accomplishments of hers include being a Special Olympics gymnast, receiving the Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing crown in 2015, and working with Best Buddies International, which fosters friendships for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Besides her strong work ethic, she has faith. While she hasn’t spoken openly about religion, Holmgren has reminded her Facebook fans to “remember the reason for the season” during Christmas and often dances to contemporary Christian music.

She’s also pro-life. In August 2015, she posted a photo of herself at a table for Project Life, a pregnancy and family resource center in Minnesota, at a local fair.

That’s no surprise, considering the pro-life movement is especially relevant to those with Down syndrome. According to CBS, the U.S. has an estimated abortion rate of 67% (1995-2011) for the unborn diagnosed with Down syndrome.

But many in the media wouldn’t admit the connection – starting with CBS.

CBS hyped Holmgren’s win over the weekend. But back in August, the network sparked controversy after tweeting that Iceland “is on pace to virtually eliminate Down syndrome through abortion.”

In other words, unborn babies with Down syndrome in Iceland are being “eliminated” in astonishing numbers by abortion. But instead, CBS recognized Iceland for ridding itself of Down syndrome.

While the media celebrated Holmgren for her success because she has Down syndrome, those same outlets support the demise of unborn babies diagnosed with it.

Feminist site Refinery29 heralded Holmgren as a “woman with Down syndrome” who “just made history.”“It’s about time the pageant world — and the rest of the world — celebrated all forms of beauty,” praised writer Megan Decker. “We’re thankful to Miss Minnesota USA for helping lead the charge.”

Yes, if only her site recognized all forms of beauty – including that of the unborn. But instead, back in August, Refinery29 defended CBS after its tweet.

“Undergoing testing at all — and making decisions based on the results — is intensely personal to each family going through a pregnancy,” health writer Kasandra Brabow concluded of testing for Down syndrome.

Cosmopolitan writer Tamara Fuentes also acknowledged Holmgren “made history.” But, last year, senior writer Prachi Gupta bashed an “egregious” Indiana House bill that barred abortion based on Down syndrome.

“If House Bill 1337 is signed into law, abortions sought because a fetus has been diagnosed with a disability (such as Down syndrome) will be banned,” she warned, before concluding, “Indiana Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma is not thinking of the living and breathing women whose lives will be forever altered by these laws.”

Never mind that women’s lives are altered irreparably by abortion – even if the media turn a blind eye to it.

Buzzfeed reporter Brianna Sacks also highlighted Holmgren. In 2015, Buzzfeed reporter Azeen Ghorayshi interviewed five people about an Ohio bill that would also prohibit abortion for people with Down Syndrome. Just one person represented the pro-life movement.

Back in May, Teen Vogue profiled Holmgren, who writer Molly Thomson agreed was a “trailblazer.” That same magazine infamously published a piece earlier this year telling teens “what to get a friend post-abortion.” And, by February, had already pushed abortion to teens 63 times in 2017. 63 times in two months.

But Holmgren’s story is exposing the media’s problematic take on life. Her goal, she says, is to show the “whole world” that “people with Down syndrome are beautiful and talented.” And she’s doing just that, to an audience that needs it: the media.

She’s living the story that every person – no matter how different, no matter how small – has intrinsic value and dignity.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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Katie Yoder serves as the associate culture editor at NewsBusters and is a columnist for CatholicVote.org. She is also the Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow for the Media Research Center’s culture division. Follow her on Twitter @k_yoder.

1 Comment

  1. Diane Bower BS, BSN, MA, PEL-CSN on

    I must beg to differ with your analysis of this situation Ms. Yoder. All Christians are called to respect the beauty and dignity of our God created bodies. Saint Pope John Paul II’s ‘Theology of the Body’ eloquently states that all males and females are made in the image and likeness of God. We all agree that no one for any reason should be aborted. That being said, there is nothing theological sound about the “Miss USA” pageant where female body parts are rated to fit a secular sexual standard of beauty. At best “Miss USA” pageant does not reflect Marion virtues and at worst is little more than a shallow spectacle of sexism and misogyny. As a mother of a Down’s daughter and having a Down’s sister, and a special education nurse specialist, I would suggest that sexualizing a person with the capabilities of a child is seriously questionable if not irresponsible and abusive. We all applaud and pray for continued opportunities for our more vulnerable members of the mystical body of Christ. However, putting a cognitively challenged person in a low cut dress, heavy make up and parade her around in bathing suit presenting her as a person who would be able to handle the attentions that this type of activity would ellicit is shameful.

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