Mass aborting of babies with Down syndrome amounts to eugenics

(National Review) The New York Times’ This week’s “The Ethicist” column features a father-to-be who questions whether prenatal testing for conditions like Down syndrome amounts to eugenics. The answer, predictably, is no. From the range:

None of these scenarios is morally troubling, in my view, and nothing is naturally described as a matter of eugenics; they have nothing to do with coercion and are not intended to raise the “quality” of the human gene pool. The same applies to you. You don’t expect our common genetic stock to be affected (people with Down syndrome rarely have children, although the rate of Down syndrome in their children is quite high when they do). If so, what you are considering is not a eugenic choice.

This is too narrow a view of what constitutes eugenics. Eugenics is more than trying to control the health or other characteristics of a general population. Rather, it reflects an all-too-commonly-promoted mindset that some people are better or have more value than others, and that an acceptable answer is to ensure that people disfavored was never thought – as in the old eugenics of the early 20th century – or unable to leave the womb as is the case today (or even, serves as a justification for infanticide as justified by utilitarians like Peter Singer ).

But surely, The Ethicist is right that prenatal testing, per se, is no eugenics. In fact, it can be a great way to demonstrate the need for prenatal treatments or to give parents time to prepare for a child with special needs.

But prenatal testing Possible also used for eugenics purposes, such as sex-selection abortion or the killing of babies with Down, dwarfism, even cleft palate, in the womb. In fact, many genetic counselors push parents that the unborn baby tests positive for Down’s or another genetic condition to be aborted. That is eugenics, at least as widely understood. And it doesn’t matter that the government isn’t pressing the issue.

Some countries are pushing (but not requiring) universal prenatal testing at least implicitly for that express purpose. In Iceland and Denmark, for example, Down syndrome is almost eliminated because almost all such babies are aborted. If that’s not eugenic cleansing, I don’t know what is.

At least The Ethicist put up a modest defense of people with Down:

It is important to distinguish between reasonable concerns about your children’s future and anxieties that show prejudice against people with disabilities. It is unreasonable to worry about having a child who cannot have a long and useful life. But that’s not true for most people with Down syndrome. Parents of children with Down syndrome have written at length, and often heartwarmingly, about their experiences. Before you decide to terminate a pregnancy at this point, make sure your decision is truly informed.

The mass abortion of babies with Down is one of the tragedies of our time. And if you doubt it, consider the difference between the number of people with Down fifty years ago compared to today. We are poorer as a society that so many of these wonderful, loving people were denied birth.

Editor’s Note: This article was published on National Review and reprinted here with permission.

The DOJ jailed a pro-life grandmother this Christmas for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30 seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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