May 9, 2007

The end of Down syndrome.

The NYT writes about the dwindling number of births of children with Down Syndrome:
[U]nder a new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age.

About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.

Convinced that more couples would choose to continue their pregnancies if they better appreciated what it meant to raise a child with Down syndrome, a growing group of parents are seeking to insert their own positive perspectives into a decision often dominated by daunting medical statistics and doctors who feel obligated to describe the difficulties of life with a disabled child.

They are pressing obstetricians to send them couples who have been given a prenatal diagnosis and inviting prospective parents into their homes to meet their children. In Massachusetts, for example, volunteers in a “first call” network linking veteran parents to new ones are now offering support to couples deciding whether to continue a pregnancy.

The parent evangelists are driven by a deep-seated fear for their children’s well-being in a world where there are fewer people like them. But as prenatal tests become available for a range of other perceived genetic imperfections, they may also be heralding a broader cultural skirmish over where to draw the line between preventing disability and accepting human diversity.
For those who are opposed to abortion across the board, this is not a difficult question. And apparently -- look at that 90 percent figure -- those who support abortion rights don't have qualms based on the idea of "accepting human diversity" when it comes to the matter of choice over what kind of family they will have.

But 90 percent! That must mean that a lot of women who support restrictions on abortion would still have an abortion if they knew the child would have Down syndrome. In the future, it seems, anyone taking care of a child with Down syndrome will be viewed as a saint... or, perhaps, misguided and foolish.

IN THE COMMENTS: This is important, from bearing:
Remember that this doesn't mean "90 percent of all unborn children who have DS are aborted," but "90 percent of all unborn children who are diagnosed before birth are aborted."

Many women who are opposed to abortion decline the DS tests on the grounds that they are not actionable information. I've had three pregnancies and never had any tests for that reason. So -- I don't know how many, but a lot of the strongly-opposed-to-abortion people are not part of that calculation. You'd need to know what fraction of people actually get tested to know how often people betray their principles to abort a child with DS.

ADDED: Andrew Sullivan links here and says:
Conservatives Who Abort

Ann Althouse peers into a not-too-pretty closet.
In the comments here, TMink says:
[S]ome parents would abort a child if a test suggested that the child would be homosexual.

Awful. Tragic. Sinful.

I am not trying to be judgmental, I am speaking about myself and my wife. As Christians, we trusted God to give us the child we wanted. We tried fertility treatments, to no avail.
I didn't mean for this post only to question conservatives. I want to question liberals too. I wonder about the liberals who oppose discrimination against the disabled, but would abort their child because it is disabled. I assume these people would support gay rights for the living but feel justified aborting their own child if they there were a test that showed it was going to be gay.

It is one thing to support abortion rights -- I believe it should be the pregnant woman's choice -- but rejecting interference with that choice doesn't mean you see no question of morality. What are the wrong reasons to abort? Shouldn't we talk about that? Some religious conservatives like TMink say that they trust God to give them the child that is meant to be. Others, it seems, judging from the 90% statistic, make an exception for themselves and have the abortion. But isn't there something equivalent for social liberals? Shouldn't they have moral standards about what reasons are acceptable for an abortion?

MORE: William Saletan reads the same article I did and sums it up this way:
Official rationales: 1) Down's kids are a joy and not such a burden. 2) Routine abortion of them is a step toward eugenics. Unofficial rationale: If no more kids are born with the syndrome, society's support for kids already affected will evaporate. Cynical view: Misery loves company. Hardcore pro-choice view: This smells like pro-life pressure tactics.

103 comments:

MadisonMan said...

a lot of women who support restrictions on abortion would still have an abortion if they knew the child would have Down syndrome.

Also, many men who support restrictions on abortions would want their wives to abort if they knew the child would have Down syndrome. It's not just the women making this decision.

Ann Althouse said...

Worse than that, there are couples who find out that they have different opinions on the subject.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger said...

My heart goes out to parents of DS children; it must be a heart rending decision. As a parent I would have to consider the child's life situation as I (the parents) get older and eventually die. I know there are group homes, but DS victims are continuing to live longer and longer lives.

I would certainly opt for an abortion, assuming my partner would agree, just as I would if my child were diagnosed with Tay Sachs in utero (or any other condition that denied them a decent quality of life.)

bearing said...

I know a family who had a baby girl with DS the same week my daughter was born. Her name is Jillian. She (and my daughter) are 9 months old.

She is the first baby that I ever met who has DS.

Before I got a chance to see her up close and hold her, I expected Jillian to be somehow different from "normal" babies. I expected her to be duller or limper or less active or less interested in her surroundings, I guess.

I'm embarrassed now that I thought that. She is not like that. She is exactly as bright and interested and active and curious as any 9mo, including my daughter. She grabs things, she plays peek-a-boo, she looks around for her mom when a stranger picks her up to cuddle her, she babbles.

If she didn't have the "Down's family resemblance," I'm telling you, you would not know the difference.

I detest all abortion, but with many congenital diseases and genetic syndromes, I have some sympathy for parents who believe that an abortion will be more merciful because it will spare their child a life of suffering worse than death. This is not the case with DS.

Unless they are terribly misinformed about the nature of DS, they are instead sparing *themselves* the trouble, embarrassment, or expense of caring for a special child.

John said...

I know a lot of children and adults with Down's syndrome. I wonder how it makes them feel to know they are the last of their kind.

O Brave New World ...

bearing said...

Re: roger's comment,

The problem of how to arrange for the care of an adult son or daughter with developmental disabilities is indeed a difficult one.

Hmm, what do parents do when a healthy son or daughter has an accident or illness that renders them unable to become independent? (Typically they are not allowed to just, you know, eliminate them at that point.)

In an older, more connected society, we'd take it for granted that the extended family would assume care of (or at least responsibility for) an adult who couldn't live independently. If there are several siblings and close cousins, the responsibility and the care can be shared. Nowadays nobody has more than one (MAYBE two) siblings --- and few cousins, rarely a close one.

There's something seriously wrong here, folks.

bearing said...

I just noticed something Ann said:

But 90 percent! That must mean that a lot of women who support restrictions on abortion would still have an abortion if they knew the child would have Down syndrome.

Remember that this doesn't mean "90 percent of all unborn children who have DS are aborted," but "90 percent of all unborn children who are diagnosed before birth are aborted."

Many women who are opposed to abortion decline the DS tests on the grounds that they are not actionable information. I've had three pregnancies and never had any tests for that reason. So -- I don't know how many, but a lot of the strongly-opposed-to-abortion people are not part of that calculation. You'd need to know what fraction of people actually get tested to know how often people betray their principles to abort a child with DS.

Roger said...

Bearing: I appreciate your comments, but may I respectfully suggest your phrase "betray their principles," strikes me as a bit harsh. No offense intended.

peter hoh said...

The percentages may be small, but there are some women who support abortion who nonetheless would not choose to abort their own pregnancy, were they to receive a diagnosis Down syndrome. And some of these women even choose to forgo any such screening.

peter hoh said...

Roger, "betray their principles" seems right on the mark when describing those who oppose abortion and yet choose abortion themselves. Sure, it's anecdotal, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from abortion providers about abortion opponents sing their services.

Bender said...

"Lebensunwertes Leben" (life unworthy of life), "survival of the fittest," murder as an act of "mercy," and "three generations of imbeciles are enough."

Brave new world indeed.

peter hoh said...

"Using" their services. Not "sing."

howzerdo said...

This makes me sad. My dear nephew and his wife found out through screening tests last year that their baby had a very serious birth defect, one that can be accompanied by other chromosome disorders, including DS. It was detected during an ordinary ultrasound (where they were focused on the gender, not considering for a second what else it might show). They agreed to additional screening, not because they intended to abort, but because knowing what was wrong in advance might make a positive outcome more likely when the baby was born. During the endless tests that followed, they received what they perceived as intense pressure to terminate from all the specialist. They refused. Although she was not born with DS, the baby spent the first four months of her life in neonatal intensive care and has had three surgeries (and will have three more in the next two years). She just turned one year old and was christened, a truly wonderful occasion. She's the happiest little person I've ever seen, such a joy to all who meet her, and since I am not exactly a "kid person," that's saying a lot. I remember wondering before her birth, when my nephew told me about the advice from doctors, why do all people have to be perfect? It's like living in the movie Gattaca.

Jennifer said...

Bearing - I refused any optional testing during pregnancy for the same reasons as you. I think you're right about that interpretation.

Galvanized said...

I'm just wondering -- of those parents who are overcome with grief and abort, did they indeed have a DS advocate/parent mentor to balance out the doctor's recommendation? It only seems fair. I have talked to quite a few parents of DS children, and every single family agrees on three points: 1) it is a challenge in every way, especially physically with DS boys/men, 2) they all have concerns about what will happen to them in the future if left alone, and 3) they can't imagine their lives without their DS child/sibling, who, they say, gives them proper perspective and unconditional love. I've also noticed these families are all more cohesive and bonded than a lot of others. So the question is, would we remove every obstacle from our way that might initially prove a challenge but ultimately enrich our lives? A DS child is not a cancer to be eradicated. I think that these families should be out front for educating/mentoring these prospective parents who feel at first that they would be stigmatized and are unaware of the tremendous support in the community, the programs available to those with DS and their families, and alternative living arrangements for adults with DS to ensure a happy life. Their education and the warm relationships lessen the fear and loneliness of the diagnosis. They give a realistic view of life with DS and teach the prospective parents that life with DS is not all bleak and depressing, or ugly.

And people forget that the parent advocate may not persuade the mother to have the DS baby. However, the advocate could help psychologically (because it would be traumatic, agonizing to be faced with making the decision) even if it doesn't result in a DS child being born. This is also a great psychological service for the prospective mother no matter what she decides, in talking to a woman who has had the same experience of being told. People forget, I think, that it puts an unfair burden on a prospective parent to be given the right to make a decision to end a life. That's agonizing in itself.

With that said, while I oppose abortion for convenience, I would never, ever judge anyone who chooses to have one, let alone a mother given a diagnosis such as DS. And the decision should always rest with the mother.

Finally, even though a child is diagnosed prior to birth, there is no guarantee of the level of severity of the DS. Some are more profound while others are milder. This should also be explained because it does affect the quality of life for the rest of the family.

It seems that another whole issue is prenatal testing. It's given people control but also created a moral dilemma. It's like being given "yes" or "no" checkboxes in life when there should be an essay section, made powerful in a limited way when you don't know all the ramifications your decision would have. "Would you like to know the date of your death?" Gosh, who knows?

denis in canada said...

Roger said: I would certainly opt for an abortion, assuming my partner would agree, just as I would if my child were diagnosed with Tay Sachs in utero (or any other condition that denied them a decent quality of life.)

I have worked with many, many DS people, and known many others. They are, without exception, the happiest, most affectionate, friendly, loving, fun, people I have ever met. What on earth does 'decent quality of life' mean? Frankly, they have a better 'quality' of life than I do with my multiple university degrees!
If we define life and its quality in terms of economic potential or personal power or mastery, then not only will we abort all the less-than-perfect babies, we will condemn ourselves to live in a very harsh world in which, I fear, everyone's 'quality of life' will be less than decent.

Tim said...

The intersection of abortion on demand + prenatal testing = distributed, do-it-yourself eugenics.

All of us should be glowing with boundless pride for our ever-so humane achievements. We're so much more sophisticated than those brutal Spartans and Nazis, don'tcha know. No crematoriums and their awful particulate-spewing smokestacks to litter our ever-so-environmentally sensitive landscapes.

leap said...

Having "parent advocates/evangelists" available is a wonderful idea. I chose not to have the testing but I was pressured and even chastised (by one specific doctor in the practice) for choosing just not to have the test! What if it had been positive and I had decided to take no action other then have my child...certainly a second opinion or different perspective/support would have been appreciated.

Roger said...

denis: after I put that phrase down I realized it probably wasnt the thought I wanted to express. It is trite--I was really referring more to diseases like tay-sachs that end in death, permanent incapcitation or lifelong hospitalization--I couldnt come up with the right term without going thru all the possible outcomes.

Freeman Hunt said...

Bearing - I refused any optional testing during pregnancy for the same reasons as you. I think you're right about that interpretation.

Same here on the testing, so I also think that that interpretation is probably correct.

Fritz said...

The 90% rate is from a UK study, how stoic. Here in Illinois, OB's are required to offer the test. Neither of my children were tested because we accepted our responsibilities as creators of life. The test was intrusive and there was nothing that could be done anyway other than an abortion. Also didn't know their gender until the day they were born.

Galvanized said...

leap -- been there and also had decided to not abort, but allowed the doctor at his insistence to do the amniocentesis (as I'm sure he's used to people changing their minds upon diagnosis).I almost felt negligent if I didn't have the testing done. Abortion was suggested. The result: a 1-lb 4-oz baby three months early, lots of trials over a year, but other than being quite diminutive, he's perfect and problems resolved. We are among the lucky ones as his picture was so very bleak and initially that he would die in utero. He's a little delayed in school with resource, but we're just glad he's here and can't imagine life without him, our little surprise. But my point is that the prenatal testing IS a burden on parents as well as a help to predict challenges. Already stressed moms are sometimes forced to play God. But since people are so litigious, prenatal testing is indeed pushed by docs, understandably. Plus, there will always be those moms who don't get prenatal testing and won't get any advocacy at all. That's the really sad truth.

Wade Garrett said...

Bearing - I respect and understand where you are coming from with your point of view. Having said that, you tend to take the traditional conservative view that the main reason abortion happens is because prospective parents want to shirk responsibility. I think that determining the type of life you want to live is really important.

Sure, its possible that your child might get into a car accident and require life-long care and attention. But you know that 100% of babies with Down's Syndrome will require lifelong care and attention; care and attention of which your other children (and perhaps your elderly parents) will be deprived. That aspect of things is too often overlooked.

Wade Garrett said...

Tim,

Please, you're not impressing anybody. Some states in this country don't have a single abortion provider. Its not as if you can just get one on the corner store along with a Slurpee and a Slim Jim. The whole "abortion on demand" argument is erroneous.

El Presidente said...

There are many problems with raising a disabled child. Typically, “a decent quality of life” (at least for the child) is not and issue. Most disabled children are wonderfully happy when treated with love and respect. The parental quality of life can take a pretty big hit though.

-Sorry parents, one of you can no longer work.
-Sorry to the other parent, you can never start your own small business and if you loose your job/insurance your life savings are gone.
-Sorry to the family, all vacations must be planned and scheduled around the disabled child.
-Sorry to the other kids in the family, you are the ‘retards brother’ and your parents have spend your college fund on medications and extra therapies.
-Sorry to both parents, half of your ‘friends’ just don’t understand.
-Sorry to both parents, you have a lifetime of worry ahead of you.
-Sorry to both parents, about 80% of you will be divorced before the child turns 18.

There are great joys in raising a disabled child. When your seven year old uses the toilet for the first time. When your fourteen year old sleeps through the night for the first time. Teaching your eighteen year old to play BINGO.

Your true friends will be there for you, as will most of your family, but other wise you are pretty much on your own. I’m not a big advocate of the nanny state but if we are going to “tut-tut” about aborting 90% of tested DS babies we might want to look at why that choice is made.

Thank God my wife and I didn’t have this information before our child was born. I might have made a decision I would have regretted for the rest of my life.

Methadras said...

People who knowingly birth and raise a child with any sort of disability or defect are saints. Not just in this country but around the world. I believe in human life and giving human life a chance to flourish and experience life if not living, but I will not condemn 90% of those people, when faced with the reality that their babies may have a disease or disability they are unable or unwilling to deal with. It's sad and I wish they could have made a better, more informed decision, but I wouldn't fault them.

I have a DS cousin and he's as cute and as gregarious as any other child. When I look at him and pick him up and hold him, I so want to, by sheer will alone, want to make him normal, but I know I can't. But I realize that he's articulate and quite smart. Just not as smart as everyone else. That's not bad and his mother and father are saints for still wanting to be his mother and father even after knowing. I love them dearly.

leap said...

Galvanized - Don't misunderstand I am not against prenatal testing and certainly stress the need of prenatal care but I was very angry over the DR. reaction to my decision/choice. She was brutal and made no attempts to explain any other possible benefits of the test; she belittled my opinion and choice. I would not have terminated for any reason. Doctors through around the word choice a lot but sometimes when they do not agree with the choice they can over reach their position. I refused to see that specific DR. after that and when I complained her colleagues were appalled at her statements and lake of respect for my wishes (actually my own OBGYN was very supportive of my decision). I didn't really want to know if there might be a problem. I went through my pregnancy alone (another story another day) and didn't need the additional stress/worry/concern/fear etc…. A year later my brother and his wife (who had difficult conceiving & was high risk) did have the test done. The initial results were that the baby had DS. I saw the stress and agony that they both went through just to have more testing completed to find out that the baby was probably fine. But they were not better off knowing either way. Either way they wouldn't have aborted but didn't feel 100% confident about the baby’s health until she was born. I guess my thoughts are having people available to give support or other perspective on decisions made by expectant parents is not a bad idea. My son was born 100% healthy (First Grade here we come!) and I am grateful! I would make the same decision today as I did then!

Richard Dolan said...

"In the future, it seems, anyone taking care of a child with Down syndrome will be viewed as a saint... or, perhaps, misguided and foolish."

To frame it that way draws the line between religious belief and pragmatic calculation. It harkens back to the Genesis story: to eat of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge and learn of Good and Evil is to bring an end to the earthly Paradise. Knowledge forces a choice, and through the process of choosing, we learn and confront who we are -- and have to live with the consequences. The mere availability of modern-day genetic testing forces those choices, even if one's choice is not to know.

Ann's contrast between the saint and the fool also echoes reactions to the story of Abraham and Isaac. How could Abraham have been willing to sacrifice Isaac, and what would Abraham have done if the Lord hadn't intervened? As to the latter question, the Bible (thankfully) doesn't say. Today, anyone acting like Abraham would be deemed certifiably insane (or worse). Abortion doesn't draw quite so fine a line, but it's not that different either. Abortion for reasons of convenience, rather than to preserve life when only one can be saved, turns Abraham's dilemma on its head.

Wherever one falls on Ann's belief/pragmatism scale, being forced to decide whether to abort a baby inevitably presents a life-changing and life-defining moment. It's probably the closest anyone today ever gets to the position of Abraham standing over Isaac with the knife.

Roger said...

May I say to all the posters who have shared their experience in this most personal of areas: thank you. This thread has given me some really extraordinary insights.

Roger said...

Sorry: forgot the most important point I wanted to make: it should be required reading for expectant parents.

GeorgeH said...

I have known several families with DS children.
In most of the cases the other children in the family hated the DS child and the attention and money that went to take care of them.
God have mercy on the DS children when the parents are gone and their siblings control them.

Doug said...

I had the same thought when I read the 90% figure, that a certain amount of abortion opponents chose the abortion route. When my wife was pregnant with my oldest daughter, we got test results that raised the possibility of DS, the amnio came back normal, thank god. But we both agreed we would keep our baby no matter what.

Just last year, my brother and his wife had a baby with DS and I had people come up to me and ask why didn't they abort, and that it was selfish to bring a baby into the world that was abnormal and it would be too much of a burden on their whole family.

I tried explaining how my SIL sees the baby inside her as a living human, but I don't think it really registered. Selfishly on my behalf, I am so glad they didn't abort my neice, my god-daughter.

TMink said...

Ann, I think your analysis is correct.

My wife and I had a late pregnancy and were suggested to have an amnio and declined. We were not interested in abortion under any cirsumstances, so we declined.

DS kids and adults can be a hoot are it makes me very sad to think of people aborting those children. But this is our world, this is how we think, and this is the kind of thing we decide.

Tragic.

Trey

Thorley Winston said...

Please, you're not impressing anybody. Some states in this country don't have a single abortion provider.

Which States?

MadisonMan said...

My relative with DS has already consumed more medical care than I and my wife and kids ever will (I hope). A couple open heart surgeries (She had the common heart perforation), several pacemaker installs. She is also quite the little spitfire and is adored by her brothers.

I'm curious: who should pay for all the surgeries that are required for the child's survival? Does compassion for the family continue once the child has been born, and abortion is no longer in the picture?

I will never, ever judge the agonizing decisions parents faced with a DS diagnosis must make.

ShadowFox said...

They're trying to inform people who are already parents about life with a Down Syndrome child.

This is an interesting redefinition. It's bad enough to redefine blastocysts as the "unborn" (are resuscitated heart attack victims the "undead"?), now we have to redefine expecting couples as "parents"?

No, Ruth Anne--they are not parents until a child has been born and they are taking care of it.

Tim, Nazis and Spartans, as you put it, were very good at preaching their moral views to others. In fact, they were very good at enforcing their moral views on others. I see where you are coming from--and where you're going.

If she didn't have the "Down's family resemblance," I'm telling you, you would not know the difference.

bearing, you can't be that naive! The cognitive differential does not show up until later.

Sure, with contemporary treatment, ultra-restricted diet and a lot of work, DS children can do quite well. I know DS teenagers who have been on restricted diets virtually since birth and their cognitive ability is on par with others their age. But you can still tell the difference in thought patterns. And some people with lower cognitive capacity can succeed--just look at the current staff at the White House.

But if you want to see why prospective parents decide to bail out, you need only consider the No Child Left Behind Act. Even children who succeed in school despite their disability are subjected to routine standardized tests that determine whether they get to move on to next grade or to graduate. And these tests are precisely where these disabilities manifest themselves most strongly. Compassionate conservatism indeed.

Let's face it, the "culture of life" doesn't give a s*** about life once it's out of the womb.

Fen said...

Shadowfax uses Down Syndrome to take a swipe at WH staffers. How cute.

Galvanized said...

leap -- Oh, no, my point was that I AGREE with you. I was just saying that maybe the pressure from your doctor came from the fear of litigation. As well, I wanted you to know that I, too, was somewhat pressured to have the testing and was uncomfortable with it, too. And, you're right, in that it often DOES cause a lot of additional stress where there could be none for parents who state beforehand that they will not abort and don't want to know.

Also, I am sure that many doctors witness a lot of people who say that they never would come to rationalize a decision to abort after all once faced with the reality of retardation. The doctor has no way of knowing who will "cave" and who won't. A doctor has seen every possible scenario and knows to cover himself with these tests.

Another thing that makes prenatal testing advisable is that it can offer hope of correcting conditions before birth,so that justifies uses other than for diagnosis and offering abortion, such as diagnosis of a disease that must be prepared and educated for, as well as in utero surgeries for heart defects and the like. But you're right -- some doctors can be downright forceful about it, and it can come to feel like emotional and verbal abuse to a mom.

I guess that it can go either way. But, again, since I've thought back often on why my doctor was so insistent about the amnio, I better understand why he pressed for it -- most of it for liability's sake and CYA for him, as well as for my sake in preparing me.

Troy said...

I think as long as we have upper middle income bureaucrats and middle to rich doctors defining quality of life we're OK. I mean, if you can't go 200 Gs in debt for your education, schtoop (sp.?) the nurse, and buy a Porsche, what is life worth?

Madison Man -- you are no doubt right, but I have no doubt the presentation on DS is imbalanced. Downs is very manageable (notice I didn't say "easy") and most of the discomfort I've seen in the dozens of Downs folks I've known (a couple in my family) the inconvenience and anguish is mostly on the part of those who define themselves as "normal". The main cause of strife for Downs people is that they are often (not always) smart enough to know when they are being condescended to. Many are profoundly disabled too, but the testing in question is hardly rock solid and gives false positives -- not the sort of "science" I would want to kill my baby over.

Fritz said...

Ann,
You have some really good people on your site. It's nice to see such selfless acts. When liberals talk of compassion, it tends to be actions with someone else's money. Real compassion are those that dutifully act for no compensation to bring a good life to someone else.

Fritz said...

Shadowfox,
It is really compassionate to pass a child along that is failing rather than to study reliable & valid data to correct the problem? I mean, why should I care if my doctor is able to pass the boards, lawyer pass the bar, their self-worth is at stake! Competence not praise builds confidence.

paul a'barge said...

The parent evangelists are driven by a deep-seated fear for their children’s well-being in a world where there are fewer people like them.

Right. Not that the parent evangelists are driven my fundamental moral considerations.

Oh well. At least the article didn't say parent nazis. I'm sure the MSMers would like to have said that. Maybe they thought they were being fair and balanced.

Steve said...

Many women who are opposed to abortion decline the DS tests on the grounds that they are not actionable information.

That was a very good point. But I'd note that my wife, who is staunchly pro-choice, also refused the test because she knew that she, personally, was not interested in an abortion even if the baby had DS. So it's not just pro-life people declining the test.

And just because it was our decision to keep the baby no matter what (she's beautiful and healthy, btw), I don't feel comfortable judging people who might make a different decision. Our family has the time and resources to take care of a special-needs child, if that's the hand God deals us. Others may not feel capable, whether financially or emotionally or whatever, and I'd just as soon let them make the decision that's right for their own family.

Jay said...

So, Shadowfax, what is the threshold level of cognitive capacity above which people will be allowed to live, but below which people will be (or may be) terminated? Sounds like Logan's Run for the intellectually challenged.

ShadowFox said...

Fritz, you fall for the propaganda line that these tests measure something important and are an integral part of school accountability. But, having studied these tests quite closely, the majority of them are simply not up to par with results pretty close to arbitrary. There is some qualitative difference between the very top and very bottom scorers, but pretty much everyone in-between is randomly distributed.

The students I am referring to are not failing--they do quite well in school and not because they are being strung along by teachers. But their thought process is often quite different and they do require extra time on some tasks. The NCLB mandated tests do not allow for such variations.

Let's not forget that the official purpose behind the NCLB restrictions is school accountability. NCLB supporters don't care about students as individuals--to them, they are just statistics, much like US soldiers are so much statistical bait for Dick Morris. (I still can't believe that this prick said yesterday that we should keep troops in the Middle East because terrorists won't come here as long as they have American soldiers to kill nearby.)

But every professional organization has said quite clearly that one cannot have tests with dual purpose--if they are used for school accountability, they cannot be used for failing students and vice versa.

It's a nice sentiment--tough love--to claim that we should not pass along failing students, but it has nothing to do with reality. Note that most schools that are listed as "failing" under NCLB guidelines are actually the top schools in each state. Why? Because the guidelines are made up arbitrarily in a vacuum--they have nothing to do with actually failing to teach the students, but failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress goals. Pure fiction!

And using students as pawns strikes me as grossly inappropriate.

Bon said...

The Jerry lewis telethon should be all but extinct if every couple could abort children who would be born with severe dissabilites. Every time I see those kids on that show under 15 years old, I think how poorly our medical care is that these children were not aborted and spared the indignity of being on a telethon.

Robert S. said...

"When liberals talk of compassion, it tends to be actions with someone else's money. Real compassion are those that dutifully act for no compensation to bring a good life to someone else."

Right. Because liberals have no history of compassion without compensation for minority groups or gays or what not.

Nice sweeping generalization.

Bon said...

I think everyone should be able to grow up free even if they leprocy

ShadowFox said...

So, Shadowfax, what is the threshold level of cognitive capacity above which people will be allowed to live, but below which people will be (or may be) terminated?

Jay, please point to the passage where *I* made the connection between cognitive capacity and "termination". In fact, see if you can find a point anywhere where I advocated abortion.

This is the problem with the anti-abortion lunatics--they tend to assume that anyone who disagrees with their world view must be a Baby Killer.

I have news for you, then--Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, Ronald Reagan would all be Baby Killers by that definition. Each has expressed the sentiment that he opposes abortion but would not impose those views on others.

But I have not even gone as far as Dick Cheney. I have expressed no position on the subject, although it might be safe to derive my position. But the emphasis should be on "might"--you can't know until you ask or until I tell you.

But, Jay, you went even further. Not only did you assume that I support elective abortions, but that I actually advocate abortions as means of social engineering.

Abortion is used as a means of population control (China), gender selection (Korea), retroactive contraception (Russia and much of Eastern Europe). Sterilization is a classic prototype of eugenics--but sterilization was not just the province of the Nazi doctors, it was practiced in the US, Australia and quite a few other places without the additional ideological baggage. All these practices are routinely condemned by self-described pro-choice advocates.

Yet, there are people (in the loose sense of the word) who go into hysterics over an undifferentiated lump of cells. These people also tend to ascribe fictitious views to their opponents. Are you one of these people, Jay?

And, please note, it's ShadowFox, not Shadowfax.

Tim said...

"The whole "abortion on demand" argument is erroneous."

No state outlaws abortion. No one wanting an abortion doesn't have access to an abortion, if they're willing to put in some effort or expense.

Otherwise, yeah, my bad. I suppose you're right that in a more perfect world with socialized medicine, the abortion van would indeed make house calls, even to homes in rural, red-state America, so that "services" could be provided nice and tidy before The View or Oprah is on.

Fritz said...

Robert,
You mean Al Gore Sr.'s vote against the civil rights act? The Southern Strategy did more for blacks in the South than any program offered liberals. Was fighting to keep bath houses open, prevent the spread of AIDs compassion?

Shadowfox,
I'm am not interested in discussing a testing regiment program, there may be quirks, but no school is forced to take the money. The economy is the consumer of education, the public delivery system of k-12 is a failure. Your ilk want more money going into that failure, I want competition.

Cedarford said...

Good thought-provoking post by Althouse and some good responses.

Ignoring the discussion of how a Downs baby can be wonderful/a disaster - depending on viewpoint, Ann's factual observation that 90% of those tested decide to abort signifies large majorities support the legal option of abortion in cases of severe birth defects, not just Alzheimers. In other countries where The People and legislatures have decided, instead of 9 lawyers in robes dictating to society - the usual consensus is: Legal elective abortion in the 1st Trimester only, any abortions after that for physical health of the mother with strict criteria, and abortion for major fetal genetic conditions..

One poster made a good point that 90% is not the true Stat, since many pro-life mothers fear having such genetic tests, and forego temptation. Another pointed the 90% was just valid for the UK.

Point taken. 90% is not a hard, universal stat valid in all societies.
But legislation democratically arrived at in other countries suggest that our elected officials would follow similar policy. Though if we had a state, vs. federalist approach as many advocate to get closer to the actual Will of the People, there would be abortion law disparities between Bible Belt atates and states like California or Massachusetts.
Which wouldn't be much of an issue given full faith and credit Fed Law. Someone from Mississippi who wanted an abortion would be legally free to hop on a plane or bus or drive to another state and get one. Similarly, a deeply religious family disturbed by abortion being available in New Jersey could decide living in abortion- restricted Arkansas would be a more moral lifestyle choice.

Also keep in mind that in the world of severe fetal defects families decide to abort for, Downs is one of the milder ones. There are other conditions that present a doomed kid who will suffer and eventually die in days, months, in childhood...and all too often result in a medically bankrupted, wrecked family headed for divorce court, with other children in the family often badly damaged by neglect as most of the parents attention will be on the dying, defective one...

Even the remaining hardcore anti-abortion countries in Latin America, Muslim lands - have provisions to allow abortion for health of the mother or severe fetal defects.

ShadowFox said...

no school is forced to take the money

Yet more compassionate conservatism for you. Let's not forget that the "money" is Title I funds--do you know what the purpose of Title I funds is?

I'll skip the "ilk" comment--you don't know me, yet you talk as if you do.

I want competition

Oh... so you're a Social Darwinist then? Survival of the fittest?

litbrit said...

I have three sons; I had amnio with the third, due to my age (38 at the time). All was clear. Had there been proof of Downs or another chromosomal defect with serious quality-and-duration-of-life issues, I would have undergone an abortion, heartbreaking a choice as that may have been. As it turned out, my son is healthy and gorgeous, but he does have a minor birth defect: unilateral aural atresia and microtia, which means that on one side, he has no ear canal and a smaller ear. I tell you this simply to point out that certain birth defects don't show up as elevated serum proteins or chromosome differences, nor can they always be seen on ultrasounds.

A close friend decided to end her pregnancy mid-term when ultrasound revealed serious defects (one of the Trisomy group) that meant the fetus would die in utero or shortly after birth. She and her husband were devastated, almost unable to speak for months afterwards, as it had taken her a while to become pregnant. There were simply no good choices: a D&E, which would dismantle the fetus; induction of labor and giving birth to a very premature fetus (but one she could at least say goodbye to); carry the fetus as long as nature allowed, eventually giving birth to a dead or dying fetus anyway. She opted for induction.

My cousin and his wife have a Downs baby; they live in the Bahamas and are pro-choice Catholics.

I believe my friend, my cousin, and I are all good, thoughtful, moral people. I also believe everyone has to make his or her own choice in such circumstances. Being pro-choice does not mean said choice is an easy or lighthearted one, not by any stretch of the imagination, no matter what some people and organizations might have us believe.

gg said...

I just find it amazing that some people consider aborting for disability a "good" reason to have an abortion (as opposed to socioeconomic reasons).

If you have a perfectly healthy one-year-old who falls and becomes mentally impaired, you are not allowed to abandon it. You are not allowed to try to kill it. You certainly deserve sympathy--and help--as you raise the child, but it's not socially acceptable to want it dead and gone just because you didn't sign up for a disabled kid or you think it'd be "better off." Such notions would make you a monster in the eyes of society, and rightly so.

Yet rewind one year, and suddenly disability becomes a virtuous reason to end that life? Even if you think a fetus has no moral worth, why on earth does a monstrous, selfish, and ignorantly judgmental motivation suddenly become a heroic one? From the perspective of the parents, both situations present a problem they didn't "consent" to, but the way we judge that motivation is so different.

Jay said...

ShadowFox - I've read your posts again, and I must say, it seems clear to me that you both support elective abortions generally, and support elective (not necessarily state mandated, and not as a form of "social engineering" except perhaps of the grass-roots self-help kind) abortions particularly for the purpose of terminating children that will not meet some unknown standard of cognitive capacity.

So the question I had (and have), which I directed to you because your post really triggered the idea for me, is (or are, really): (1) is it acceptable to terminate a pregnancy because a person with downs syndrome will have diminished cognitive capacity?, and, if so, (2) is it acceptable to terminate pregnancies regardless of a downs syndrome finding because the child will have diminished cognitive capacity, and, if so, (3) what is the threshold level above or below which individuals may be terminated?

I did not express an opinion either way on any of these questions in my initial post (except to refer to Logan's Run, which really is a great movie - I highly recommend it), and do not do so here.

Shadowfox (and forgive me for mangling your "name" in my prior post - I must have confused you with the horse from the Lord of the Rings), I am not asking you to answer this question. Nor am I ascribing to you any views you do not have. I read your post and offered my impression of what I heard you say. My impression remains the same. I understand you disagree.

MadisonMan said...

some people consider aborting for disability a "good" reason to have an abortion

Who are these 'some' people, and what do the quotes around "good" mean? It's an understandable reason.

Wade Garrett said...

Tim -

As you know, the Constitution protects a woman's right to privacy. In fact, most states have outlawed abortion; they're just not allowed to enforce those laws.

How does that add up to abortion on demand?

And, how does anything add up to "do-it-yourself eugenics?" That statement is a contradiction in terms.

cj said...

Long time lurker, first time poster.
My DS son is 4.5 years old. We discovered a problem at a routine ultrasound at 3 months. We opted for Amniocenticis(sp?) because we needed to KNOW, not just guess/fear for the remainder of the pregnancy. Frankly, I needed the time to grieve the loss of a son that Isaac would never be.
It is a very tough road; make no mistake. I can say that my marriage is better than it has ever been, and my son enjoys life tremendously. My wife and I are conservative Christians; abortion was not an option for us.

litbrit said...

gg, the law in America (for now, at least) and many other countries makes a clear distinction between a one-year-old child and a four-month-old fetus.

Of course one would not dream of abandoning or killing an injured/impaired toddler. But we are talking about a months-old fetus, a partially developed and fully dependent early life form that cannot survive without the internal bodily services of its mother, her organs, and her blood. And under our law, this fetus does not have rights that equal those of a living, individual child, much less rights that supersede those of the mother.

It is not the case in the US, but until recently, in many cultures, neonatal demise was so common, a baby was not even named or recognized as an individual until it passed a certain age (i.e. 1 year). In our culture, we define personhood at birth, but that doesn't guarantee said baby will live to its first birthday. Indeed, the US has rather dismal neonatal death statistics--I believe we're second among developed nations when it comes to how many American infants die. The causes can include poor prenatal care, drug use, poor nutrition, and more--all matters for discussion in and of themselves, I think.

Fritz said...

Shadowfox,
The smell of union comes out in your writing. I'm not a social Darwinist. We have the best secondary education system in the world, because there is accountability through accreditation, and competition between public & private. I see no reason we don't adopt the European model of public funding for both public & private k-12 education.

an aside. I had to chuckle this weekend when the young volunteer soliciting money for her ministry in inner-city-Chicago made reference to the fact the school she works at has as many as 34 students per classroom. Unknown to her, our Parish school has that same ratio, a 2 time US Department of Education Blue Ribbon School. Some much for class size.

Cedarford said...

Wade Garrett said...
Tim -

As you know, the Constitution protects a woman's right to privacy. In fact, most states have outlawed abortion; they're just not allowed to enforce those laws.


No, we don't know that about the Constitution because the document doesn't have a word in it about the matter. We have the word of 5 lawyers in robes opposed by 4 other robed lawyers saying that the unwritten part of the Constitution that they "divined" as existing gives a Constitutional right buried in some refraction of an emenation of a penumbra to gay anal sex..err...sorry...the Founders hidden intent that abortion would one day be legal.

Daryl said...

Two Russian sisters, 19 and 21, become professors in America

If one of them had Down's syndrome instead of being a genius, that would be better, because then we'd have more diversity.

It would also have given their parents the chance to be more saintly. Their parents might go to Hell because their daughter was born healthy! Oh no!

As far as I'm concerned, Down's Syndrome is a terrible affliction, and if the only cure is abortion, then so be it.

We need more geniuses and fewer idiots, and I'm not just talking about people with Down's. Make way for the future! There are no developmentally delayed people on Star Trek. At least, they don't get to ride on the space ships.

Kathy said...

I also have never had the genetic tests run, and I'm on baby number 4. I always ask the doctor, if the test finds anything, what can we do? And he hems and haws and says something muffled about it being nice to know in advance. And I say no thank you. Some problems we'll find out about through the ultrasound, should they occur, and others would be a surprise. As much as any of these serious problems would be in some ways tragic, I'm not going to abort just to avoid the consequences. I'm getting older, so I get lots of suggestions from the doctor to have the tests, but these are really just his way of making sure he doesn't get sued, and I know that, so we get along fine.

Fen said...

bearing: Remember that this doesn't mean "90 percent of all unborn children who have DS are aborted," but "90 percent of all unborn children who are diagnosed before birth are aborted

Are you saying that babies are aborted based soley on a diagnosis? Hopw accurate is that diagnosis? With what certainty?

bearing said...

Wade: Sure, its possible that your child might get into a car accident and require life-long care and attention. But you know that 100% of babies with Down's Syndrome will require lifelong care and attention; care and attention of which your other children (and perhaps your elderly parents) will be deprived. That aspect of things is too often overlooked.

Believe it or not, there are plenty of folks who'd adopt a baby with DS and volunteer to shoulder their care.

So -- I'm not all that impressed with this position.

bearing said...

bearing:If she didn't have the "Down's family resemblance," I'm telling you, you would not know the difference.

shadowfox: bearing, you can't be that naive! The cognitive differential does not show up until later.

Ah yes. I can't be so naive to think that a nine-month-old with DS was cute, bright, curious, and sweet. My point was that I was surprised by a DS baby's abilities when I actually met her. Might *you* be surprised by the abilities of a DS adult?

Wade Garrett said...

Cedarford - Way to prove that you're a hater by straying off topic to fire a zinger at gay men. You should be proud of yourself.

Bearing - I didn't ask you to be impressed by it, but its something that more people ought to consider. I've known couples who had planned on having larger families, but who felt they couldn't handle another baby after having one with Down's Syndrome. And siblings of children with Down's Syndrome get the short end of the stick all too often. No every Down's Syndrome baby holds hands and sings 'Its A Wonderful World," you know. This is just a long way of saying that I admire parents who choose to have children with these handicaps, but I in no way blame or judge people who choose to have abortions when confronted with potentially 50 years of enormously increased parental duties.

bearing said...

litbrit: Of course one would not dream of abandoning or killing an injured/impaired toddler.

Serious question: why not?

Kathy said...

Are you saying that babies are aborted based soley on a diagnosis? Hopw accurate is that diagnosis? With what certainty?

Depends on which test we're talking about. Lots of moms-to-be get the blood test, called the Triple Screen. It's not 100% accurate. A friend had a positive result, showing Downs, in hers and worried throughout the pregnancy, only to find it was a false positive. How accurate is it? Here's one take:
About: Pregnancy and Childbirth: AFP and Triple Screen Testing

Now, you can follow it up with amniocentesis to get a confirmation, but there are risks involved with that test. The risks may be small, but they are not insignificant.

Also, I see from that link I pasted that the Triple Screen apparently gives quite a few false negatives, so unless we get a more accurate test there will still be Down Syndrome babies born even if all the positive diagnoses result in abortion.

ShadowFox said...

Jay,
I repeat again that, irrespectively of what you read into my posts, I do not advocate for elective abortions. I do, however, object to others sticking their noses where it does not belong. On a theoretical level, abortion as a method of birth control is morally repugnant. But morality is a funny thing--it differs from individual to individual. Those who believe that their religion trumps all other morality are dangerously misguided--just look at Saudi Arabia or other countries or regions that implement Sharia laws.

I don't support abortions and I don't oppose them. What I do support is the parental right to decide if it is appropriate for them and to seek a medically safe procedure if that is their choice.

This should answer your series of questions. The "cognitive capacity" discussion was peripheral to the abortion issue--my comments were directed as someone claiming that one cannot tell the difference between a DS child and a non-DS child, not whether the abortion decision should be based on that difference. Ultimately, as I have already stated above, it is a parental decision--something in which I would not participate. Nor would I set specific guidelines for making that decision.

If you ask me whether I think it is appropriate to set limits for aborting fetuses that are projected to be within some category for cognitive capacity, I would say, "absolutely not". The reasons are many. To name a few: 1) I don't believe this is a valid reason for the decision--not morally wrong, just ill informed; 2) the categories are only loosely qualitatively defined and should not be viewed as strict numerical categories; 3) the ability of the medical profession to evaluate anything prenatally is rather limited (e.g., a friend was told that his child would be born at 14 lb and was recommended an elected Cesarean--the kid was born normally at a little over 9 lb).

Part of the problem is that a lot of people treat medicine as science--it is not, although it uses scientific methods and findings to heavily supplement human decision-making. And medical technology has come a long way--but, again, that's not science.


Fritz,
I am not sure what the smell of unions is. Perhaps you have olfactory hallucinations. I don't know. But your commentary is ill informed.

The DoE suffered quite an embarrassment after NCLB was passed because quite a number of the Blue Ribbon Schools ended up on the "failing" list. Their solution was to legislate by fiat that even when schools meet all other criteria, if they happen to be on the "failing" list, they do not qualify for the Blue Ribbon recognition. Note, also, that private schools cannot "fail" by definition--they are not subject to NCLB. That's called rigging the test--hardly a competitive move.

One of the more frequently cited absurdities of NCLB is the fact that in the first two years there were no failing schools in Arkasas, but virtually every school was failing in Michigan. If you know anything about public school in the US, you should laugh at this result--it is patently absurd. A valid accountability measure simply cannot lead to such absurd results--in other words, one that does is invalid.

Class size is one of the factors to consider. The point of the claims that class size affects performance is that all other variables must be held equal for that comparison to hold. Clearly, you parish school is in no way equal to the school that was soliciting your help. The simplest difference is that non-competitive public schools (i.e., not magnet or exam schools) take all comers. Even most charter schools don't do that. If you want to legislate vouchers in such a way that 1) parental income would not prevent students from attending the school of their choice and 2) schools must take all comers or set the criteria in advance that would disqualify voucher as well as non-voucher students equally--I would consider vouchers to be a viable option (although much would still have to be addressed). Without those two conditions, vouchers are simply a way to funnel school funding to support elective private school enrollment. If anything, this is an anti-competitive measure.

TMink said...

Well, now that you mention gay folks, some parents would abort a child if a test suggested that the child would be homosexual.

Awful. Tragic. Sinful.

I am not trying to be judgmental, I am speaking about myself and my wife. As Christians, we trusted God to give us the child we wanted. We tried fertility treatments, to no avail.

We utilized donor embroyos to fantastic success. The doctor implanted three instead of two, all of them took, and we have 4 year old, healthy triplets.

The doctors mentioned testing for downs, we were not interested, the doctor knew to not mention aborting one of our precious children after that. Having three on the wasy scared us to death.

But God knew what He was doing again. So instead of judging, I just want to offer faith and hope and trust. It works for us. All of us!

Trey

Peter Palladas said...

Thirty odd - sometimes very odd - years I have worked with vulnerable adults trying to support them to have good quality lives.

If the world thinks that it is a better place without people with Downs Syndrome - some of the most insightful, challenging, inspiring people I could ever meet - then the world sucks.

David said...

We need more geniuses and fewer idiots, and I'm not just talking about people with Down's. Make way for the future! There are no developmentally delayed people on Star Trek. At least, they don't get to ride on the space ships.

I'm going to assume that this comment was made tongue-in-cheek because, otherwise, wow. But this type of argument comes up often enough, for example when the topic of immigration, that it deserves some comment. A future in which everyone is a computer programmer and no one hauls garbage may not be as pleasant as you think.

Revenant said...

On a theoretical level, abortion as a method of birth control is morally repugnant. But morality is a funny thing--it differs from individual to individual.

Laws are a funny thing, too -- they're based on what the majority thinks is moral. That's why murder gets a prison sentence, even though morality "differs from individual to individual".

Tim said...

"Well, now that you mention gay folks, some parents would abort a child if a test suggested that the child would be homosexual."

Yes, there are people who will do this. The intersection of abortion on demand + prenatal testing = distributed, do-it-yourself eugenics.

None should be surprised.

"Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need ... We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock."
Margaret Sanger, April 1933 Birth Control Review.

"Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems."
Margaret Sanger. "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda." Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5.

The Exalted said...

Believe it or not, there are plenty of folks who'd adopt a baby with DS and volunteer to shoulder their care.


i bet

Cedarford said...

tim - Yes, there are people who will do this. The intersection of abortion on demand + prenatal testing = distributed, do-it-yourself eugenics.

Saying eugenics, a tool that can be used to remove undesirable genetic diseases or features from a plant or animal population is "bad and evi" because it can be misused - is like saying planes are bad and evil because they can be used to bomb cities.

Despite all the charity shows that urge you to "give" to cure kids with incurable genetic disease stemming from the DNA in every cell of their body....the "cure" to some of the most horrific diseases or patholgies may only happen when they are bred out of the population.

Making wheat resistant to wheat blight was done not by plant doctors caring for each diseased wheat stalks. It was done by breeding susceptibility to that fugus away. Hip displasia is not being "cured" in dog breeds, but slowly removed from stricter screening on breeding lines. Man is just another lifeform subject to the same rules.

Want a cure for MD, Cystic Fibrosis, childhood diseases that kill 100% of those before age 3 and very painfully and expensively? You use eugenics and breed the problem away.

********************
This thread focuses on Downs. But there are new tests for genetic conditions that are a thousand times worse than Downs or having the "gay" birth defect....and IMO, any parent that lets a kid be born with such a condition is monstrous.

(I also think that parents elect to go ahead and have a severely defective infant - that they did so knowingly and of their own choice and taxpayers should not pay for it).

jon said...

I used to care for a severely disabled boy. I had an assortment of contradictory reactions to having a teenager love Barney, hug me, love tactile stimulation (some time in the swimming pool, rolling in the carpet, feeling his own genitals and feces,) and be a messy and slow eater. And when I adopted a child, I couldn't do it anymore. It became heartbreaking.

And the adopted daughter was a nightmare that kept me awake at night, needed constant attention, was full of anger at the world, and then resented the three children my wife and I had. We put ourselves in serious debt to place her in the best schools and give her the best childhood we could provide, but she needed something else and ran away from home.

My three sons are as needy as children are supposed to be, wonderfully intelligent, and physically and mentally just fine. But my wife and I became exhausted with parenting, which strongly affected our relationship, and are now in the process of separating.

Children can be overwhelming. I'll never question anyone's doubts or fears about their ability to be responsible for a child. It's easy to say "You should have thought about that before you got pregnant!" but I don't think that's either realistic, fair, or productive. But I understand that sentiment. Don't agree with it, but understand it.

Synova said...

Ten years ago my OB was going to schedule pre-natal testing for me and I asked if I should have it. She wouldn't say. I asked if *she* needed to know, if there was a medical reason to know about a genetic problem before birth. She wouldn't say.

I came out of that with the conclusion that the *only* reason for the testing was to get an abortion. And since I wouldn't do that I refused to have the testing.

My daughter is healthy but I wonder, really, what sort of a choice I would have made if she'd had downs or some other condition. Pregnancy is frightening, and I believe at least part of that is hormones.

And the first comment by madisonman makes an important point... you take the genetic tests and it's not just the mother but the father and parents and friends who are going to be *pushing* abortion.

There are some truly devastating heritable diseases and people who know they carry them and that their children have an almost sure chance of dying horribly so they chose not to have babies at all. If that were me, I think that I might decide that it would be better to test and abort if the (such as recessive genes) chance was even 50/50 because it would seem better than not having children at all. Effectively allowing the condition to kill *all* my children, at least in potential.

It would be nice to imagine the family continuing but with the deadly recessive gone.

For me, at least, downs doesn't count as a "good enough reason."

Having a child with medical problems is tough, and I'm grateful that I don't, but really, no one gets promised that they won't have that kind of a burden. Of people I can think of off-hand, the injuries were physical ones, an umbilical cord around the neck or a motorcycle accident. As a member of a family a person is likely to have to care for others at some point, perhaps for a life time. It's part of the deal.

Revenant said...

Something to consider about the Down's Syndrome is this: unless the mother is older than 42, the chances of the test accidentally inducing a miscarriage are greater than the chances of the baby (a) being DS+ and (b) being detected as such by the test. At age 35, for example, the odds of the fetus being defective, and detected as such, are around 0.2%. The odds of the test causing a miscarriage are around ten times that.

In other words, in the overwhelming majority of cases a woman making an informed decision to test for Down's Syndrome must be more worried about having a child with Down's Syndrome than she is about losing her baby. The aforementioned 35-year-old, for example, must consider birthing a DS+ baby to be at least ten times worse than losing a healthy baby. Guess what? That woman's probably pro-choice!

CR said...

It is one thing to support abortion rights -- I believe it should be the pregnant woman's choice -- but rejecting interference with that choice doesn't mean you see no question of morality."

That's why I support choice. It's up to the individual to make--not government. And strangely, I think that ought to be the conservative position. Too bad the Rush Limbaughs of the world tell us different.

Revenant said...

It's up to the individual to make--not government. And strangely, I think that ought to be the conservative position.

The conservative position was not, last I checked, "individuals can do whatever they want, regardless of who gets hurt". Pro-lifers believe fetuses and living, breathing human children are morally equivalent. It doesn't strike me as "un-conservative" to reject the "individual choice" to kill innocent people just because their existence is inconvenient to us.

Synova said...

Yeah, but is it Rush?

Pro-life sorts accuse pro-choice sorts of actually being pro-abortion.

If pro-choice sorts are so worried about accidentally supporting pro-life arguments that they won't talk about the moral questions of abortion and what it means that we view children as something inherently contrary to the well being of women and don't take seriously the questions such as this one about pre-natal testing and abortion and what sort of people are unwanted and unworthy of life... then they *are* pro-abortion, aren't they.

Ann Althouse said...

Anyone who thinks people don't want to adopt should read this old post, about people who prefer to adopt children with Down syndrome.

CR said...

Yeah, I know. I was fool enough to believe the "limited government" position of the supposed conservative movement. Who would've thunk that it meant to take the word "life" to its logical absurdity.

During the Shiavo mess I kept thinking Rush must be trying to prove absurdity by being absurd. Jeebus, what an idiot I was to vote GOP.

You "cult of life" weirdos can kiss my vote goodbye. It's not like you needed it last go around anyway.

Wade Garrett said...

First of all, you can't breed Downs Syndrome out of existence; its not a genetic disease that's passed on from generation to generation. Its not like Tay-Sachs or Sickle Cell. I don't know of many people who would oppose attempting to breed Tay-Sachs and Sickle Cell out of existence - there would be a lot less suffering because of it. My mother is a carrier for a disease that is essentially a Sicilian version of sickle cell. She was advised by a doctor to marry a non-Italian. She didn't follow the doctor's orders, and my brother and I lucked out, and now that there is more intermarriage, these dangerous recessive gene combinations are becoming less likely, but there is still cause for concern.


On an unrelated note, believe it or not, Christianists, there are a lot of people who believe that termination a month-old clump of undifferentiated cells is more moral than bringing a child into the world and then leaving it at the orphanage. I would be inclined to side with them. Calling first trimester fetuses "people" is a misnomer and you know it.

Downs Syndrome children make a lot of parents happy. They also make a lot of parents miserable. Raising one is considerably above and beyond the normal parental 'call of duty.' I can't help but cringe when I read Ann's earlier post. To me, the language those people use to describe children with Down's Syndrome is similar to the language people use to describe dogs. I find that really offensive.

downtownlad said...

I don't believe in abortion, but if I were having a kid, and a test proved that it was going to be straight - then damn right I would favor of an abortion.

Synova said...

You show a severe inability to consider an issue from another person's point of view, CR.

Taking "life" to it's logical absurdity is as much about how we view and value "life" before that point as anything else. You don't have to agree, but it's not "weirdos" who are concerned about it.

In essence it's exactly this question... who deserves to live? How we view people at the extremes, as a fetus or a vegetative person, reflects on how we view everyone in between.

People bring up Eugenics and it does apply. Any limit on either end of life where it's okay to kill a living human organism defines who deserves to live and who deserves to die and only a very foolish person would think that there is any significant difference on either side of where that line is drawn. With a baby... the last day of the first trimester and the first day of the second trimester don't signify any real difference. On the other end, who is injured enough to let die? Who is disabled enough to let die?

Keeping someone alive who isn't going to recover and is not aware of the world is more about valuing people who are not that far gone but who can not live without assistance and who may be severely brain damaged. Otherwise we have to decide who "counts" and who doesn't. Who is too damaged to live and who is not.

Same with babies. At what point do they count? At what point do we decide that today this is not a person but tomorrow it is a person.

If a person has medical issues, is it better that they never be born? Really?

How do we value people and when do we not value people?

Kathy said...

On an unrelated note, believe it or not, Christianists, there are a lot of people who believe that termination a month-old clump of undifferentiated cells is more moral than bringing a child into the world and then leaving it at the orphanage.

But that's not what's being terminated. You don't even get the triple screen until you're in the second trimester, meaning three months pregnant or more (see here: http://www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/14332_1166.asp), and then to be sure you didn't get a false positive you have to follow up with other tests that also take time.

By week 11 (keeping in mind that conception is assumed to have occurred at week 2, so subtract 2 from these weeks to determine how long the fetus has actually been developing), which is the earliest I saw for any testing to be done, the baby has a baby shape and lots of different parts:
http://pregnancy.about.com/cs/pregnancycalendar/l/blweek11.htm

That baby stops being a "clump of undifferentiated cells" a lot sooner than you might think if you've never really looked at fetal development. By Week 5, which is really only 2 weeks after conception, the heart is already formed and beating:
http://pregnancy.about.com/cs/pregnancycalendar/l/blweek5.htm

So make your moral calculations, but don't make them under the assumption that what we're talking about is a clump of undifferentiated cells.

blake said...

Despite all the charity shows that urge you to "give" to cure kids with incurable genetic disease stemming from the DNA in every cell of their body

(Emphasis mine.) Literally incorrect. Many genetic defects appear as mosaics. They do not stem from "every cell".

In fact, the whole concept may be wrong. For some "genetic conditions", they look for the presence a particular marker, or the opposite of that marker, or a different marker, or in some cases, there's no marker at all. Oh, and people without the condition might also have the same marker, absence of marker, etc.

If this was stuff that could actually be bred out, as Cedarford suggests, why wasn't it at any time in the brtual 99.9% of our time on the planet?

Also, since the tests aren't very good--the AFP in particular gives more false positives than accurate readings, ka-ching! for the labs that run it though!--we need to be able to retroactively abort (a la South Park) in to the 40th trimenster.

Or maybe there isn't an exact parallel between wheat and human beings.

bearing said...

So make your moral calculations, but don't make them under the assumption that what we're talking about is a clump of undifferentiated cells.


Or, I might add, that adoptive parents are equivalent to "the orphanage." Sheesh.

TMink said...

Cedarford wrote: "I also think that parents elect to go ahead and have a severely defective infant - that they did so knowingly and of their own choice and taxpayers should not pay for it."

Fair enough, I appreciate your honest, unambiguous statement. Who should taxpayers have to pay for Cedarford?

Trey

TMink said...

Ann, I think the issue is primarily about abortion opponents. Those of us who talk a good game but would act inconsistently with our statements need to be called out.

I have this funny theory about abortion, why it is legal at least. It is legal because people like me, religious conservatives, made it so.

In pre-abortion days unwed mothers were treated like shit. They were shamed and sent out of town to hide. They were treated this way by people who claim to be like me, a religious conservative.

People were injured, lives were ruined, and it was the mother's who bore the brunt of the injury and injustice.

The Supreme Court reacted to the bigotry and injustice of the actions and choices of the religious conservatives. Had the people who claim to folow Christ act like Christians, abortion would be legal only in cases of rape and when the mother's life was in peril. The two times I support abortion. But no, judgmental assholes, claiming to be something else, led the country to the tragedy of abortion being the leading cause of preventible death in America.

It is our fault.

Trey

TMink said...

DTL, I worry about you. Honest.

Obviously you have been hurt by straight folks, and that is not right. But what I worry about is the bitter, vengful, resentment that you express here. I worry that it will eat you alive and leave you a dried up prune of a person.

It starts with hating straight people, then it moves on to hating gays who do not hate straight people, then gays who do not hate straight people enough, then you just end up hating everyone. Then you hate yourself.

I have read your posts and you are a bright person as well as a bitter person. I hope and pray that the bright part steps up and deals with the bitter, resentful part before it consumes you.

Trey

Tim said...

We're all very fortunate DLT's parents could not test for homosexuality and have access to abortion on demand.

Who knows how much lesser these threads would have been without his ever-so-insightful pearls of wisdom?

Parenthetically, DLT certainly proves my earlier point about the intersection of abortion on demand + prenatal testing = distributed, do-it-yourself eugenics. If homosexuality can ever be confirmed with prenatal testing, pro-choicers will absolutely defend the laws to the end permitting the abortion of those children. And people will use those "rights" to abort gay children in utero.

You are absolutely naive if you believe otherwise.

Mindsteps said...

Tim said: If homosexuality can ever be confirmed with prenatal testing, pro-choicers will absolutely defend the laws to the end permitting the abortion of those children. And people will use those "rights" to abort gay children in utero.

On the other hand, there is always reparative therapy for the 'gay' fetus.

The Exalted said...

easy solution (to me anyway) to prevent the doomsday scenarios being thrown around in here would be to ban testing for certain characteristics, like homosexuality, skin color, etc (to the extent these characteristics could ever be determined through any kind of "test")

Revenant said...

I was fool enough to believe the "limited government" position of the supposed conservative movement. Who would've thunk that it meant to take the word "life" to its logical absurdity.

For starters, anyone who has paid attention to politics during the last , oh, half-century or so? The idea that unborn children count as human beings is not a new one. It predates the modern small-government.

You keep missing the obvious point, which is that "small government" has never meant "legalized murder". You may disagree that fetus have human rights (I disagree with that position too) but it is not absurd, logically or otherwise.

TMink said...

Wade wrote: "On an unrelated note, believe it or not, Christianists,"

Wade, I do not think you are afraid of my spirituality, I think you are afraid that I vote. So please change the name from Christianist to voter. And be afraid, be very afraid!

I went to check out the stats for voter support for abortion on demand and read poll results that were all over the place depending on the question. Best I can figure, a majority of Americans, myself included, want abortion to remain legal to save the mother or in case of rape.

Beyond that the support precipitously falls off. And not all of us that are anti-abortion are Christian as I am. So you do a disservice to the Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Agnostics and other folks who oppose abortion.

I think you are just afraid of democracy.

Trey

gg said...

"easy solution (to me anyway) to prevent the doomsday scenarios being thrown around in here would be to ban testing for certain characteristics, like homosexuality, skin color, etc (to the extent these characteristics could ever be determined through any kind of "test")"

That just begs the question at an earlier point. Parents of a homosexual-gened fetus could always claim they want to be tested to prepare their child for the suffering/ostracism/different romantic interests in its teens. The only thing supporting your distinction is that you think being homosexual is relatively morally ok and practically not-painful, but disability is just too horrible. Not everyone agrees with either value judgment, and if you've spent the last forty years extolling the virtues of choice unfettered by the moral quibbling of others, you've got precious little ground to complain.

I still don't get it. Yes, I know the law on abortion and fetuses in America. I still don't understand why parents who abort a four-month-old fetus (or older) for disability get so much "understanding" (since someone objected to me calling it a "good" reason), but a parent who euthanizes a one-year-old accident victim with similar retardation gets hit with so much vitriol.

Take it from the point of view of the parents: the parents of the disabled fetus didn't want a disabled child. Neither did the parents of the kid who had the accident. Look at it from the kid's point of view: one "escapes" a life of suffering, the other escapes a life-minus-a-year of suffering. Neither one necessarily feels pain if the procedure's done right.

I find it terrifying that some commentators cling fervently to the birth-is-everything ideology (something about how the mother supplying nutrients in the womb make it not alive, but the mother feeding a newborn makes it alive?), but just as many have commented, yeah, terminating the one-year-old makes sense too.

As population increases, I think this abortion of the disabled rationale poses the greatest future threat to human rights. How long, really, is it going to take someone to figure out that all those old guys destroying our social security nets really don't have that great quality of life? Or that those poor (homosexual, Muslim, whatever the hated, maligned, or just forgotten segment of society will be) infants have got to go? How long will the "but they're already born!" distinction hold up? And what happens when the groups making that decision–relatives, government, whoever–starts making a few million (just a statistic!) mistakes here and there?

JenntheSpeechTeach said...

Wow! This article makes me so sad-as do so many of the opinions. I am single, but have always dreamed of being a mommy. I flew half way around the world to Hong Kong to adopt my angel, who also happens to have Down Syndrome She is the total light of my life!

My daughter is amazing-she's smart, funny, stubborn and completely unique. I wouldn't want to "cure" her...in fact, if anything I would like to be more like her. She finds joy in everything and lives every moment to the fullest.

How I wish I could reach all the parents that have to make these decisions and give them a glimpse of the joy my daughter brings me!

Jennifer