By Anthony Ozimic
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, taught many wise and noble principles that have served humanity well down the centuries. One exception, however, was his principle “let there be a law that no deformed child shall live”.
Likewise, Roman law has served as a good basis for many of the world’s legal codes. However, the Twelve Tables of Roman Law held that: “A father shall immediately put to death a son recently born, who is a monster, or has a form different from that of members of the human race.”
For many decades in Britain, the law has permitted unborn children to be aborted up to birth on the grounds of disability, which has been interpreted to include facial disfigurements such as cleft palate.
So what we see in both the ancient and modern worlds is an attitude that less-than-perfect physical characteristics are an acceptable or even mandatory reason for killing children.
Parents and their children
A big part of the joy many parents receive from their children is their resemblance to their parents and other family members. That resemblance is never identical but a unique blend of things similar and different.
Unfortunately some parents simply want their children to be a mirror of themselves, a ‘mini me’. Other parents see their children as a proxy for their own unfulfilled dreams for success.
The Guardian newspaper published an article entitled: “Would you edit your unborn child’s genes so they were successful?,” which asked:
“[W]hat about those wanting to choose a child with non-medical traits associated with sporting prowess, musical or artistic ability, general intelligence; or avoid genetic traits associated with depression or aggression; or simply select for the optimum height associated with success at a particular sport, attractiveness or higher earnings?”
Unlike objects, human beings cannot be replicated – in fact, even the much-vaunted technology of creating embryonic children through cloning cannot produce an exact copy. Although Leonardo da Vinci sought to define the perfect measurements for the human body, the reality is that no human being can be made to be perfect, whether physically, mentally or in any other way. We all have multiple imperfections and many people have disabilities, often subtle or unknown.
It is true that disabilities can be treated without suggesting rejection of persons with disabilities. Eliminating the persons themselves is, however, something very different.
When one pre-orders something in a shop, one looks forward to its arrival often with great expectations, but is likewise greatly disappointed if it doesn’t fulfil those expectations. One feels let down, even cheated, and wants to return the order.
That reaction may be appropriate for a bike or a cake, but not for a boy or a girl. Human beings, in the real world as we have it, are made to be lovably imperfect.
Find out about No Less Human, SPUC’s campaigning group for disabled people’s rights.
Editor’s note. This appeared at spuc.org.uk and is reprinted with permission.