The important thing to note here is that there has been no “cure” discovered for Downs Syndrome. It’s not that medicine has gotten better at preventing Downs Syndrome, it’s that doctors have gotten better at identifying those children before they are born, and eliminating them:
“The number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has fallen by 30% in NHS hospitals that have introduced a new form of screening.
The figures, which have been released by 26 hospital trusts in England under freedom of information laws, cover the period from 2013 — before the test was introduced to some hospitals — to 2017. The 26 account for about a fifth of the hospital trusts that offer maternity services.
More women who have the new test go on to have abortions because it is much more accurate in detecting Down’s.”
Of course, if you are in favour of legal abortion, it makes absolutely no sense to say that a woman has a choice about whether to have an abortion in general, but not if she discovers her child has Downs Syndrome. Once you accept the principle that it’s entirely a matter for the mother, whole populations can be functionally eradicated and oh, well, it’s just choice.
But of course, this has huge negative implications for those parents who do choose to continue with a pregnancy knowing that the child will have Downs Syndrome, and for those parents who have a child without ever having known before the birth that their child would be born with the condition.
It’s very simple: The smaller a population is, the less politically important it becomes. 200,000 families with Downs Syndrome are an important voting bloc. 20,000 families are a charity case. Services become less efficient, and less economical to provide, and therefore they suffer.
Further, as testing becomes more and more advanced and fewer and fewer children with Downs Syndrome are born, our collective societal compassion and empathy begins to evaporate. Instead of thinking that “it could happen to anyone” and rallying around, we begin to think of those who have a child with Downs Syndrome as having brought it upon themselves. You chose this, we say, when you had another option available to you.
One of the great problems with liberal individualism as a governing philosophy is the way it systematically attacks our empathy even as it pretends to enhance it. When this country legalises euthanasia, as it certainly will, it will be legalised in the name of compassion and empathy for the suffering. And then, in a few years, when it is deeply embedded in our society, our compassion for the sick and the terminally ill will turn to scepticism, wondering why, if they’re in such pain, they don’t just make the choice that we have compassionately provided for them.
In the case of Downs Syndrome, this process is already deeply advanced in the United Kingdom, where the vast majority of those conceived with the condition are simply never born. And a generation of people come into the world knowing less and less about Downs Syndrome, and tending more and more towards blaming the parents of those children for letting them be born in the first place.
Of course, when you make these kinds of warnings, it is dismissed as scaremongering, or worse, “exploiting” those with Downs Syndrome in order to reduce a woman’s ability to choose whether or not to continue to have a pregnancy. And of course, the logic is inescapable: Either it is all right to have an abortion, or it is not. You can’t go handing out human rights to some of the unborn on the basis of whether or not they are part of a protected class of humans just because of a particular condition. A mother either has the right to end a pregnancy, or she does not.
But what our liberal friends very often ignore is that millions of individual choices, exercised in the same direction, have a fundamental and lasting effect on our society. In this case, we are seeing the slow, and deliberate, extermination of a whole group of people, and there’s no real liberal argument for opposing it because to do so undermines the whole basis of the abortion rights argument.
So in the spirit of conciliation – how about this: Why shouldn’t we ban this kind of pre-natal testing outright?
It’s one thing, surely, to say that a woman has a right to decide whether or not to remain pregnant. Reasonable people can, and do, disagree about that. But how can it be a good thing that people are making these life and death decisions based on the most horribly eugenic-based principles? It is already an established principle of western political thought that when individual choices start having a negative impact on society, we limit them.
What is the benefit of these tests? What do they tell us that we, as a society, really need to know? Isn’t it simply the case that the only true purpose of them, in most cases, is to let parents know whether or not their baby will be “normal”, and to provide them with the option of elimination in the event that the child is not “normal”?
What negative impact would banning such tests have? How much would our freedom truly be limited by such a decision?
Even if the unborn child does not have a right to life, then surely they have a right to equal treatment. Singling children with congenital conditions out for extermination is a hallmark of savagery, and brutality.
And yet it’s going on, right around us.