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July 13, 2005

The new eugenics, or: The DUTY to abort

George Neumayr writes in the American Spectator about the normalization of eugenic abortion—that is, abortion because genetic screening of the preborn baby has identified a present or potential future abnormality. Here is an excerpt from his chilling essay (emphasis added):
The combination of doctors seeking to avoid lawsuits and parents seeking burden-free children means that once prenatal screening identifies a problem in a child the temptation to eugenic abortion becomes unstoppable. In an atmosphere of expected eugenics, even queasy, vaguely pro-life parents gravitate towards aborting a disabled child. These parents get pressure from doctors who, without even bothering to ask, automatically provide abortion options to them once the prenatal screening has diagnosed a disability (one parent, in a 1999 study, complained of a doctor showing her a video depicting the rigors of raising an afflicted child as a way of convincing her to choose abortion), and they feel pressure from society at large which having accepted eugenic abortion looks askance at parents with disabled children.

The right to abort a disabled child, in other words, is approaching the status of a duty to abort a disabled child. Parents who abort their disabled children won't be asked to justify their decision. Rather, it is the parents with disabled children who must justify themselves to a society that tacitly asks: Why did you bring into the world a child you knew was disabled or might become disabled?
Neumayr also notes the growing phenomenon of designer kids:
Not content to wait to see if a child is fit for life, doctors are exploring the more proactive eugenics of germline genetic engineering (which tries to create desirable traits in an embryo) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which is used to select the most desirable embryos after extensive genetic testing has been done before they are implanted in mothers' wombs.

"The next stage is to actually start tinkering genetically with these embryos to create advantages such as height," says Kimbrell. PGD is a "gateway technology" that will advance the new eugenics to the point "where children are literally selected and eventually designed according to a parent's desires and fears," he says.
Can the world envisioned in Gattaca be too far away?

UPDATE: An American Spectator reader brings up a good point:
But there is another player in this whole mix. When the predictive technologies become certain, what is to prevent an insurance company from stepping in and dictating whether they will pay for a full term baby? If they know that based on genetic paring of the parents that a full term delivery will be double the cost would they pay it? I predict they will not. Then what?
I agree that we are likely to see this from the insurance companies. I think it is even more likely to happen should we be insane enough to adopt a single-payer healthcare system.

1 comment:

GrannyGrump said...

Thanks for the heads-up! I'm gonna blog about this myself!

I think it's interesting that for all our talk about "celebrating diversity," as soon as we spot somebody who is obviously different -- their brains work differently, their arms or legs are configured a bit differently, they're going to be smaller in stature than the norm -- we snuff them.