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Mom defends ‘abandoning’ newborn with Down syndrome

Leo Forrest.
Leo Forrest. via Bring Leo Home/GoFundMe

TORONTO – An Armenian mother is defending herself against claims she forced her husband to choose between marriage and their newborn with Down syndrome.

Ruzanna Badalyan insisted her son Leo would live a better life in another country and her husband was not supportive in the decision making.

“In the hardest moment of my life, when my husband should be next to me and support and help to take [sic] the right decision, I could not find any support from his side,” Badalyan explained in a Facebook post.

Samuel Forrest said he faced the ultimatum just hours after his son was born and doctors told him Leo had Down syndrome.

“I got the ultimatum right then,” Forrest told ABC News. “She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”

Forrest set up a GoFundMe page to help raise enough to get him and his son to New Zealand, where Forrest is from.

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The fundraiser dubbed “Bring Leo Home (Down Syndrome)” has raised nearly $500,000.

Badalyan said there was no ultimatum.

“He started to circulate the story on every possible platform without even trying to give me a voice,” Badalyan said.”Accusing that I [gave] him an ultimatum, marriage or the baby, which is absolutely not true.”

Badalyan said she spent hours trying to “decide on the best destiny” for her son and noted she believed a move out of the country would be for the best.

“Everyone in our family realised that the baby’s interests should be placed first and only his move to another country could remedy the situation, something that Sam himself also accepted,” Badalyan said.

In Armenia, it’s reportedly common for families to abandon children born with disabilities.

“The first thing that came to my mind after the diagnosis was that I don’t want my child to live in a country where certain stereotypes dominate the lives of people with [Down syndrome] and no opportunities at all,” Badalyan said.

Forrest claimed: “My wife had already decided, so all of this was done behind my back.”

Badalyan filed for divorce a week later.

“Sam has never suggested joining him and bringing up the child together in his country,” Badalyan said. “Neither did he tell me anything on the day we filed for divorce.”

On Sunday, Forrest said he tried to convince his wife to keep the baby.

“I did everything I could to keep our family together, including suggesting we all go to New Zealand together,” the father said in a post on the GoFundMe page. “Her family also spent time trying to persuade me to surrender our son to an orphanage.”

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Forrest said he plans to use some of the money to help fund facilities and programs in Armenia that will support parents who keep children with disabilities.

The father said he still feels “a great deal of love” for Leo’s mother and that Badalyan should not be the target of criticism.