Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor for The Washington Post recently proclaimed her right to eugenic abortion when she wrote: “I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made.”
Yes, she has the right to hold that opinion about Down syndrome. She also has the individual freedom to terminate her pregnancy for that reason.
However, she is wrong about the new state laws limiting terminations for Down syndrome. They are constitutional. In fact, states are obliged to take measures to prevent the eradication of groups of people.
Prenatal screening for Down syndrome has been around for decades and was traditionally offered to a limited group of women identified as having an increased chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. With the introduction of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing, a whole new ballgame commenced, however. An entire section of the population — all pregnant women — are screened, and rather than consciously choosing to screen, women have to opt-out of screening. Some countries (like the United Kingdom) don’t offer professional guidance to parents who choose to continue the pregnancy.
The compounding individual "choices" regarding the acceptability of aborting unborn children with Down syndrome has brought forward a societal phenomenon — which resembles eugenics. Laws limiting eugenics are not unconstitutional. In fact, Ruth's statements reflect the very ideology of eugenic abortion that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights refuses to tolerate.
It doesn't matter if individuals like Ruth believe abortion is not equivalent to ending a life. What matters is that it is known that prenatal selection results in the systematic elimination of an entire group of people by preventing their births. And by not acting, the elimination has become intentional.
Think about it: We know that screening programs result in the near-elimination of certain kinds of people. What if other groups like girl, homosexual, or transgender children are targeted by screening and threatened with elimination: Should states get involved or simply turn a blind eye and let prejudice and social inequality run its course?
The main justification for the proclaimed right to abort based on Down syndrome is a mild to moderate cognitive impairment, meaning an IQ between 55 and 70 (mild) or between 35 and 55 (moderate).
Just as Hillary Clinton said when she addressed the United Nations on LGBT rights in 2011, “Being LGBT doesn’t make you less human” — a lower IQ doesn't make you less human either.
Gay rights are human rights and disability-rights are human rights. A woman's individual freedom does not trump these rights.
I don't have to defend the right of people with Down syndrome to exist, but I do want to say that the suggested suffering described in the article is rooted in a lack of knowledge about the condition.
Some 99 percent of people with Down syndrome say they are happy with their lives, and a study by Dr. Brian Skotko shows families with Down syndrome suffer a whole lot less than the average population.
Ruths' Twitter profile mentions she is the mom of "high-quality individuals." So am I. Two of them happen to have Down syndrome. (Yes, I knew my second child would be born with Down syndrome and decided to focus on the part I could control in my child's life: my part as a mother.)
I respect that Ruth tried to get a civilized debate on Twitter about the moral implications of eugenic abortion on a mass scale. Too bad she asked for expert opinions after publication of her damaging and presumptuous op-ed in the Post.
I could have given her a list of world-renowned professors, social activists, and feminists like Ruth Hubbard, who spend her career telling the world that genetic testing technology is rooted in eugenic ideology and how this ultimately restricts a woman's freedom instead of liberating them.
Ruth, your admiration for families who knowingly welcome a baby with Down syndrome into their lives is misplaced. We are not martyrs who knowingly plunged our families into a life of hardship. We are admirable because, pregnant and often alone, we were able to resist a powerhouse of negative stimuli offered by medical professionals, authorities, and media. We are the embodiment of feminism.