Pope Francis has condemned the practice of Eugenic abortions in no uncertain terms. Doctors and society abort children just because a genetic or other test shows some kind of disability in the child. As CNA reported Francis’s words:
“I’ve heard that it’s fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first few months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let’s send it away,” the pope said June 16, referring to the trend of aborting sick or disabled children.
This, he said, is “the murder of children…to get a peaceful life an innocent [person] is sent away…We do the same as the Nazis to maintain the purity of the race, but with white gloves.”
“It’s an atrocity but we do the same thing,” he said, according to Italian media.
You can read more about this meeting in Elise Harris’s report.
Conditions Subject to Eugenic Abortion
Right now, a high percentage of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the developed world are aborted. Iceland even claimed to have eliminated the condition they have such a high rate of aborting these children.
Many other conditions will come aboard since the price of sequencing a human genome has dropped dramatically. Comparing large samples allows you to find combinations of genes predisposing people for so many other conditions. In 2003, the first human genome was sequenced after years of work and $2.7 billion, but in 2015, it was down to $1,400 and it keeps dropping. The NIH notes that some tests are now under $100.
According to SNPedia, the following conditions are all likely over 2/3 genetic: type-1 diabetes, schizophrenia, polycystic ovary syndrome, bipolar, obesity, Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s, anorexia, and autism. Once we figure out the gene triggers for each of these, we could theoretically “eliminate” them by eliminating all children with those genes. We all probably know at least one person with one of those conditions. Do we want a life without them? Do we want to live in a society that kills them before they are born?
Moral Issues Surrounding Eugenic Abortion
Down Syndrome Fighter
Renate Lindeman, who has two Down Syndrome children, has fought this ideology. She wrote about a misguided letter published in a Dutch Newspaper and a continuing ideology against disabilities.
The letter stated that the freedom to birth disabled children should be limited by the ‘financial burden’ to society. Declining to abort, argues letter-writer Michael van der Lubbe, despite the availability of prenatal technology like Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), should have financial consequences for parents. His letter followed a stream of articles in the media with suggestive titles as ‘Better of without Down.’ […]M.T. Hilhorst, professor of medical ethics at the Erasmus University, writes about parents who don’t want prenatal diagnosis: “they have pushed the disability upon their children by not ‘acting’ (…) morally they can be asked to be held amenable for their choice.”
Hilhorst is one of the ethicists who sharpen their position in the book ‘Child, illness and ethics’. The book was written by famous Dutch Senator Heleen Dupuis, who monitored the Dutch Minister of Health. In the book she describes life with a serious handicap as a “desperate survival on very low level, without communication possibilities.” It is therefore, “life is not worthy of living.”
As Christians, we believe that every life is worth living. If we reduce a human to what his financial burdens are, then we lose the sense of his intrinsic values. We believe that God made everyone, including the disabled, in his image and likeness. I asked Renate about the Pope’s words and she said,
My initial reaction is brilliant comparison. Timely too. Technology, scientists and politicians are working on next steps to create and legalize embryos in laboratories. Eugenics.
The Catechism on the Disabled
In fact, the Catechism speaks out against such discrimination in #1935, quoting the Second Vatican Council:
Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights […] must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.
Two other numbers, #2208 and #2276, go further in protecting the disabled:
2208. The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs.
2276. Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.
If we want to help the disabled and handicapped, we need to help them reach their first birthday. Our help should not stop then but continue throughout life. We need to fight against ableism which only sees the difficulties someone with a disability has, failing to see what they are capable of. It is a pernicious form of discrimination. We need to help the disabled live full and fruitful lives: they can do so much if we just let them.
Abortion is a grave evil. If we want to convince mothers to change their minds and not abort such precious people, we need to help create an environment that treasures their unique gifts. The number one way to make abortion unthinkable is to make every woman see a positive life ahead for her and any child she might conceive. Abortion is usually an escape when the life ahead doesn’t look good. Whether abortion is legal or not matters, but what matters more is how society presents the possibilities. If we show the beauty of living with Down Syndrome or other conditions, women will be less tempted to abort.