Down syndrome: The abortion question
Down syndrome is now “front and center” in the national debate over abortion, said Ariana Eunjung Cha in WashingtonPost.com. Appalled by the 67 percent termination rate among women whose fetus has Down syndrome, pro-life activists have passed or introduced legislation to ban abortion for “solely” that reason in five states: Utah, North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana. The issue has become more fraught because of a new, noninvasive blood test on a pregnant woman that can detect the fetal chromosomal abnormality that causes the developmental disorder, making it easier to detect. It is “simply intolerable that so many joyous lives are being snuffed out,” said Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. People with Down syndrome are often unusually happy, and their families rarely regret having them. Yet across the Western world, abortion rates for Down babies are climbing toward 100 percent. Iceland last year bragged it was on the verge of “eradicating” Down syndrome. In reality, Iceland “is not eliminating Down syndrome; it is eliminating people with Down syndrome.”
<“I have two children,” said Ruth Marcus, also in The Washington Post, and I can say without hesitation that I would have terminated either of those pregnancies had prenatal screening revealed Down syndrome. The majority of children with Down syndrome have significant cognitive impairment and a “limited capacity for independent living and financial security,” with a lifelong dependency on parents and other caregivers. Having a Down syndrome child “is life-altering for the entire family.” I respect those who make the choice to have children with this disability, but doing so is an intensely personal decision and it’s best left to mothers—not “to government officials who believe they know best.”
Marcus’ feelings about Down babies did not arise “in a vacuum,” said Wesley Smith in NationalReview.com. The belief they should be aborted arises from “societal pressures, genetic counselors, and a disdain in our culture for limitations.” As prenatal genetic testing becomes increasingly sophisticated, we have climbed onto a slippery slope: “Babies that are the ‘wrong’ sex are already being aborted,” and parents may soon have the option to eliminate autistic babies, or those with poor eyesight or a genetic predisposition toward cancer or obesity. In this “new eugenics,” parents will have a right not only to have a baby but also “the baby we want.” Beware where this leads.