I was reading a story on The Atlantic Wire about comic book legend Frank Miller’s opinion of Occupy Wall Street (FYI: he’s not a fan) when I noticed a link for another short article with an irresistible title: “How Much Eugenics Are We Willing To Tolerate?” So I read it. It’s very short; here’s the link if you would like to read it as well:
The article is quite remarkable. What amazes me is the writer’s apparent ability to ignore what he is really saying. Or maybe he knows exactly what he is saying – I’m not sure which is more disturbing.
The first line of the article reads: “A new prenatal test for Down Syndrome arrives, and with it, the possible end of the condition.” Well, that sounds just great – an end to Down Syndrome! I assumed the prenatal tests might enable doctors to more effectively treat the condition, though that didn’t seem to make much sense. What else could the writer mean?
As it turns out, the writer means exactly what he says – well, almost says. The article claims that 92% of mothers who find out that their baby will be born with Down Syndrome choose to abort. Thus, if we catch all cases of the disease, we can, as the writer so delicately puts it, “eradicate Down Syndrome.” Except that he doesn’t mean eradicate the condition, so much as he means eradicate those who are afflicted by it.
Let’s not quibble over terms, though. If you want to make an omelet, you have to eradicate a few eggs.
It’s a pretty contemptible suggestion, which begs the question: if we’re really serious about ending Down Syndrome, why stop with the unborn? Just think: we could end Down Syndrome tomorrow, if we were really serious about it. If unborn children with Down Syndrome shouldn’t be allowed to live, why in the world should children or adults with the condition be treated any differently? Why should they receive special treatment just because they had the misfortune to survive the womb?
And why stop with Down Syndrome? Frankly, I think we all need to dream a little bit bigger. Imagine: the end of AIDS is within our reach! Prenatal testing can help us find out which babies would be born with the condition and then we can, you know, just make sure they aren’t. And let’s not get all wobbly in the knees now that we’ve made it this far; let’s face it – the mentally ill and physically deformed cramp our style. If we can’t figure out a way to cure them, then obviously the next best thing is to “end [their] condition,” to modify the article’s delightful phrase. Just think: a world without disease and deformity (though we’ll still fight to make the death penatly illegal, natch.) and all because we realized what the real problem is: those pesky Down Syndrome babies.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard arguments like this. The virtues of aborting children who possess, ahem, flaws has been discussed for years. If the children will have a terrible quality of life, the logic runs, then shouldn’t we simply prevent their suffering? Yet this is the first time I have seen abortion advocated as a way to fight disease in general.
Only God can grant a person the right to life. Any child growing in the womb has been given that right, just as much as any adult. I realize that view has implications for the morality of the death penalty, which is pertinent to this discussion. If you oppose the death penalty, if you fight for the rights of convicted (rightly or wrongly) criminals, then I would certainly expect you to fight for the rights of the unborn as well – if criminals have the right to life, how can it be denied to unborn children? If you favor the death penalty, then you presumably believe that there are certain acts that cause a person to forfeit their right to life. Yet the unborn have certainly committed no such acts.
In any case, if any human life is sacred then all human life is sacred. If inherited disease disqualifies an unborn person from possessing the right to life, then it is a very short step to deciding that adults with debilitating disease are also disqualified.
Call it whatever you want – fighting disease through selective abortion is simply murdering the people we don’t think deserve life as much as we do. Sounds to me like the final solution to all our problems.