WaPo columnist: Thank goodness I have the right to abort a baby with Down syndrome
Imagine feeling this way and having so little shame about it that you’d ask a major newspaper to publicize your point of view.
And now imagine that the paper prints it, reasoning that an opinion shared so widely must be “reasonable” and defensible by definition.
The worst part here is her patronizing praise of mothers who carry their children with Down’s to term. How admirable you are to bear the burden of this defective.
I respect — I admire — families that knowingly welcome a baby with Down syndrome into their lives. Certainly, to be a parent is to take the risks that accompany parenting; you love your child for who she is, not what you want her to be.
But accepting that essential truth is different from compelling a woman to give birth to a child whose intellectual capacity will be impaired, whose life choices will be limited, whose health may be compromised. Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate cognitive impairment, meaning an IQ between 55 and 70 (mild) or between 35 and 55 (moderate). This means limited capacity for independent living and financial security; Down syndrome is life-altering for the entire family.
I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision.
I wouldn’t call it “good company” but she does have a lot of company in her views, particularly in Europe. “What is the purpose of pre-natal testing for Down syndrome?” asked the author, Ruth Marcus, in a tweet afterward, highlighting the fact that even doctors screen for Down’s early to help their patients weed out the “undesirables.” In a better world the answer would be “to help parents start to adjust as soon as possible to the special needs their child will have,” but that’s not the world we live in.
Naturally Marcus is being applauded for the “courage” of her monstrousness by like-minded bien-pensants. I’ll grant her two points. One: The usual pro-life counter to abortion arguments, that adoption is always an option, is a harder sell here precisely because Marcus’s view isn’t fringe. Even among the population of childless couples eager for a baby, some surely don’t want “that kind” of baby and not because they can’t afford it. A woman weighing whether to carry a baby with Down’s to term might reason that its future would be uncertain and potentially difficult in institutions if she surrendered it and it wasn’t adopted, in which case the “humane” thing to do is to, ah, kill it.
Two: She’s ultimately making a legal argument against state laws (like in Ohio and Indiana) that attempt to bar women from aborting if their sole reason is the fact that the baby has Down’s. That makes no sense, Marcus argues, uncorking this humdinger of a line: “Can it be that women have more constitutional freedom to choose to terminate their pregnancies on a whim than for the reason that the fetus has Down syndrome?” You don’t often see abortion supporters frame the right to choose in terms of “whims” — maybe she figured if she’s going to be brutally honest about aborting Down’s babies, she might as well be brutally honest about abortion in general — but she’s right, of course. The point of the Ohio and Indiana laws is to offer special protection for babies at greatly elevated risk of being aborted, but that creates a framework in which it’s okay to have your baby killed so long as it has 46 chromosomes but not if it has 47. If the state can start carving out exceptions from abortion rights for certain kinds of children, that’s a foot in the door to banning the practice entirely. Thus, if you’re pro-choice, you really have no choice but to die on this hill if need be. In the name of making sure that any child can be lawfully killed in the womb, we have to make sure that Down’s children can be too.
Needless to say, she’s hearing it from conservatives today:
Yeah, it’s nice at least to see the eugenic roots of modern abortion policy getting a callback, I suppose. Very old-school. Would that all abortion warriors were as candid as Marcus is.
In lieu of an exit question, via Alexandra DeSanctis, here’s an ad that was banned in France a few years ago for doing nothing more than asking the Marcuses of the world to listen a little more carefully to their consciences. You know your moral position is sound when having to confront its consequences for two minutes is so nauseating that the counterargument needs to be legally suppressed.