Today’s Washington Post reports that there is a new prenatal testing procedure that will allow doctors to determine in the first trimester whether a baby has down syndrome. The outrage consists in how this knowledge is routinely used.
Screening women before the second trimester allows those who might opt to terminate a pregnancy to make that decision when doctors say an abortion is safer and less traumatic (source).
Aborting babies who have defects has become a routine occurrence in our society. Yet it is a practice that almost no one wants to talk about.
Ironically, the Washington Post ran one of the most compelling essays against this practice just a couple of weeks ago. In “The Abortion Debate No One Wants To Have,” former Washington Post reporter Patricia E. Bauer writes a stirring account of how her daughter Margaret has enriched her family’s life. Margaret has down syndrome. Bauer writes:
Margaret is a person and a member of our family. She has my husband’s eyes, my hair and my mother-in-law’s sense of humor. We love and admire her because of who she is — feisty and zesty and full of life — not in spite of it. She enriches our lives. If we might not have chosen to welcome her into our family, given the choice, then that is a statement more about our ignorance than about her inherent worth.
What I don’t understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value. I’d like to think that it’s time to put that particular piece of baggage on the table and talk about it, but I’m not optimistic. People want what they want: a perfect baby, a perfect life. To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on.
And here’s one more piece of un-discussable baggage: This question is a small but nonetheless significant part of what’s driving the abortion discussion in this country. I have to think that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families. The abortion debate is not just about a woman’s right to choose whether to have a baby; it’s also about a woman’s right to choose which baby she wants to have (source).
I don’t think I have anything to add to Bauer’s remarks. She has said it all.