Burdensome Children And Rights

Burdensome Children And Rights January 3, 2019

Quite the piece here in Touchstone Magazine by David F. Watson:

As I watch my eleven-year-old son, Sean, make movies on his iPad, I worry about the future. In this era in which many have taken it upon themselves to insist loudly and publicly that their lives matter, many also insist that lives like Sean’s do not. Last March, the Washington Post published an article by Ruth Marcus entitled “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.” As a thought experiment, replace the words “with Down syndrome” with terms for other categories of people. Substitute a particular racial group, gender category, or sexual orientation. The hue and cry over such an article would rattle the heavens. Western culture has developed a normally unspoken hierarchy of humanity, and people with diminished intellectual capacities are on the low end of it.

One might object that categories of race, gender, and sexual orientation do not carry with them the familial and social burdens that people with Down syndrome do. This assumes that “burden” is an appropriate criterion for abortion, an assumption I reject. For the sake of argument, however, let’s grant the validity of this position for a moment. At what point, then, do we decide that the level of “burden” justifies the elimination of an entire category of people?

If you would prefer a closer analogy than that of race, gender, or sexual orientation, replace “Down syndrome” in the headline with another genetic condition, like a predisposition to obesity. “I would’ve aborted a fetus with a genetic propensity to become obese. Women need that right.” Think of the strain that obese people place on our healthcare system. If we could only eliminate such people before they were born. . . . Or how about: “I would have aborted a fetus with a genetic predisposition toward depression.” Or “alcoholism.” Or “Alzheimer’s.” Or “autism.” It is now possible to administer a highly accurate prenatal test for Down syndrome. No doubt the medical community will in time develop tests for other conditions as well. Imagine the headlines our children will read twenty years from now.

To its credit, the Post did publish an opposing opinion by George Will called “The real Down syndrome problem: Accepting genocide.” Will defines genocide as “the deliberate, systematic attempt to erase a category of people.” Consider also the eugenic character of efforts to eradicate people with Down syndrome. We are witnessing a concerted attempt to eliminate an entire category of people precisely because these people bear genetic characteristics considered undesirable. This has, by and large, already happened in Iceland, and it is happening in other parts of Western Europe and the United States. People with Down syndrome are depicted as inflicting a burden on both their families and the wider society. Therefore, this line of thought goes, their elimination makes life easier for all of us. One wonders which group of undesirables will next bear the unfortunate label of “burden.”

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