By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. My family is on vacation. While we are gone I’ll be running articles from the past 12 months that you’ve indicated you particularly enjoyed. Dave
The headline to the story in the British newspaper the Telegraph read, “Genetic tests could prevent those like me being born at all.” It is one of a cascade of stories from people who read as if they are (more or less) reluctantly “pro-choice” but deeply unsettled by the prospect of a massive increase in the number of abortion because prenatal genetic “profiling” unable us to target larger and large numbers of less than perfect children.
I am not familiar with the author, Alasdair Palmer, but as someone who lives with MS, he is keenly aware that babies with MS would be in deep trouble if it becomes possible to detect that fetal anomaly. (According to Palmer, that’s not the case now, because “though it has a genetic component, [multiple sclerosis] is not a single-gene disease and so cannot be detected in DNA.”) But, he asks, what if……
He’s making an attempt, I think, to pull people in who would hardly qualify as pro-lifers. Take this paragraph:
“Most people accept, rightly, that a decision on whether a foetus should be aborted ought to depend not just on the parents’ view of whether or not they want to look after a child with this or that genetic defect, but on a balanced and careful judgment of whether the child would have a life worth living. That judgment should certainly count for more than the parents’ view of whether they feel like caring for (say) a baby with a cleft palate or of unusually low intelligence. At present, however, it need not play any role at all. All that is required is that the mother should believe that the quality of her life would be severely diminished if she had to give birth to and bring up the child.”
Palmer’s entire essay is built around one theme, although with many offshoots.
“If new tests eventually enable scientists to identify every genetic defect in a foetus, on what basis will it be possible for doctors, or the law, to maintain that you can abort a foetus with one particular genetic problem, but not another one – autism, for example, or dyslexia, or being exceptionally short? This seems to me to be a genuinely slippery slope, in the sense that once you are on it, it’s very hard to get off. I cannot see any basis that would enable the law to specify, never mind enforce, a principle which says: this genetic defect is bad enough to mean that it would be better if the foetus was never born – but this one isn’t.”
Currently, the target for genetically-based termination is primarily babies found to have Down syndrome. But the number can only accelerate as the screening becomes more expansive and extensive–bundled together with the assurance that the test will not accidentally abort “perfect” babies.
And when/if we are unable to stop this, Palmer warns, “Of course we have the result of installing eugenics at the level of policy.”
Please take the time to read his essay.