April 17, 2018

"So why is there such reluctance to have children with Down syndrome?"

Asks the bioethicist Chris Kaposy in "The Ethical Case for Having a Baby With Down Syndrome (NYT)"
One explanation shows up repeatedly when parents recount the early days after receiving their child’s diagnosis. They feel a sense of loss because they no longer dream that their child will get married, go to college or start a family of their own one day — in other words, that they will not meet the conventional expectations for the perfect middle-class life....

Perhaps the question to ask is: Why do we have children at all? Most parents would agree that it is not only so that they can replicate a conventional arc of a successful middle-class life: college, marriage, real estate, grandchildren. If those are the reasons to abort fetuses with Down syndrome, they seem disappointing — they are either self-centered or empty in their narrow-minded conventionality....
Kaposy proceeds to embrace reproductive freedom and to put the right to choose in terms of choosing one's values. His last sentence is: "If you value acceptance, empathy and unconditional love, you, too, should welcome a child with Down syndrome into your life."

That idea goes beyond the simple problem of choosing (if you're a person who believes you have a choice) to give birth to a child you know has Down syndrome. There is also the more complicated and harder to perceive problem in a question that Kaposy asks but leaves mostly unexplored, "Why do we have children at all?"

Kaposy gives that question a pat send-off: "Most parents would agree that it is not only so that they can replicate a conventional arc of a successful middle-class life: college, marriage, real estate, grandchildren." What are "most parents" thinking when they decide (if they decide at all) to devote so much of their time and work and money to the human stranger that is their future baby? Isn't it something close to the replication of a conventional arc of a successful middle-class life? If it's "not only" that, it's because they want an even better life for that child, understood mostly in terms of worldly success.

Of course, the conventional idea of a successful middle-class life involves acceptance, empathy and unconditional love flowing from the parents toward the child and the child toward the parents, going on as long as any of them are alive. That too is self-centered and conventional — a kinder, gentler self-centered conventionality.

But you may not get what you're picturing, even when you believe you have a right to abort and choose to have that child. We don't look very critically at our mental picture of the unborn child, which is much more idealized when we aren't facing news that the child has a disability.

108 comments:

rhhardin said...

Mostly it's that you can replace the fetus quickly with a better one.

Otherwise all your resources go into a tough case to raise.

Shouting Thomas said...

Are you really as emotionally dull and devoid of passion as your writing suggests?

This honky disease you have... where did it come from? Why are you clinging to it?

Molly said...

I think most people decide to have children in the expectation that it will make their (the parents) lives better -- time spent with the children, time spent with others who also have children, perhaps basking in the reflected glory of children's accomplishments. And that these benefits outweigh the obvious costs (financial and psychological) of bearing and bringing up children. Learning that a child has Downs changes the calculation -- the benefits are different, and perhaps harder to imagine, the costs are different, and perhaps higher-- at least an expanded and lengthier commitment to child care.

So its not so much having children because of what you hope will be in it for the children; it's having children because of what you hope will be in it for you the parent(s).

Fernandistien said...

Why do we have children at all?

To raise family-based hordes and reconquer the Empire of Canadia.

"If you value acceptance, empathy and unconditional love, you, too, should welcome a child with Down syndrome into your life."

If you live in a fantasy land (Canadia), you should do all kindsa nutty stuff.

Ann Althouse said...

"Mostly it's that you can replace the fetus quickly with a better one. Otherwise all your resources go into a tough case to raise."

That's putting it very clearly, but the problem I see is that when you do that you have changed who you are. You are a worse person in search of a better person. And why are you having a baby at all if you're destroying one child in search of a better child? Who is this new person who wouldn't otherwise have existed but is supposed to be better for you?

Ann Althouse said...

One reason for embracing the system in which the parents don't get to choose but must go forward with any pregnancy that happens is that they aren't even supposed to think about whether this stranger knocking at their door is good enough for them.

Andy Krause said...

Babies have been commodities since Row vs Wade. Did you miss that decision.

daskol said...

To navigate the world is a challenge for the fully abled. To bring a child with such a disadvantage into it could be viewed as selfish.

Ken B said...

Althouse's response to rhhardin shows she did not understand his point, which pertains to the origin of the emotional reactions at play.

daskol said...

You want to give your children the best chance for success. For them and for yourself.

rhhardin said...

but the problem I see is that when you do that you have changed who you are.

Not if the fetus is not a baby. The language makes a distinction, which depends on how the parents see it, and then on how society sees it. The former depends on plans, and the latter on cuteness.

Once plans or cuteness come in, then it affects who you are. It's a medical and cell issue before that, with not much effect beyond trying to get pregnant again.

daskol said...

How does oes make you a worse person?

Carol said...

Did you miss that decision. '

It sounds like Ann grasps that perfectly.

But the author seems to have no grasp of a rational reason to have children.

Lewis Wetzel said...

You aren't required to raise a down's syndrome child, are you?

Fernandistien said...

Perhaps the question to ask is: Why bother to breathe at all? Most people would agree that it is not only so that they can create a conventional arc of a successful middle-class life: college, marriage, real estate, grandchildren. If those are the reasons to breathe or stop breathing, they seem disappointing — they are either self-centered or empty in their narrow-minded conventionality.

Nothing is worse than the narrow-minded conventionality created by the wrong sort of people breathing.

Shouting Thomas said...

We have children because we have dicks and pussies and hormones, to reproduce ourselves, to set our foot in the future. And for the glory of God.

You are entirely a Marxist feminist, Ann.

Sectoring out women as a class with a grievance against men is Marxism. Believing that we need to intellectually justify having children is Marxism. All your favorite feminist writers are Marxists. A few were Soviet spies. The race, class, sex critical theorists who took over U WI law school are bonehead Marxists.

You’ve made a horrible moral error. And you just keep digging in deeper.

Was there never anybody in your path who told you what an evil moral error you were making?

These “sexual identity” politics issues you keep insisting demand justification are Marxism. Why we fuck and reproduce is not an intellectual issue, nor should it be.

Intellect is your downfall. You long ago embraced evil. Yes, you’re right. I’m the only one telling you. That’s because, in my outlaw status, I’m only one who can. You’re surrounded by kiss ass careerists whose career depends on pretending that they’re aren’t just retread Marxists.

These attempts of yours to insist they we need to justify our most basic and primal instincts are somewhere between outrageously stupid and evil.

whitney said...

I think having children is not a rational decision and as it becomes a 'choice' more and more people will choose not to have them and it will exponentially become more difficult to have children because the world will not be set up for them anymore. We have this idea that it's a choice but that idea is just a blip in time of our whole history and prehistory. Having children is not a choice, they are a byproduct of having sex.

I make no predictions about the long term future but this is what seems obvious to me in the present and immediate future

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse's response to rhhardin shows she did not understand his point, which pertains to the origin of the emotional reactions at play."

State clearly the point you think I missed. I don't believe I did, but your comment is obscure, so I openly confess to not understanding it.

Martha said...

Any parent who believes he/she has a perfect child will be in for quite a revelation.

The idealized version of any unborn baby will not survive the trip down the birth canal.

We have children because we are human and in the end procreating, nurturing, and loving another human being unconditionally is the most important, intimate, and demanding thing we humans can do in our lives.

mockturtle said...

"What are "most parents" thinking when they decide (if they decide at all) to devote so much of their time and work and money to the human stranger that is their future baby? Isn't it something close to the replication of a conventional arc of a successful middle-class life?"

I don't think most prospective parents have that in mind at all. It certainly never occurred to me for a moment to imagine my children's future but was happy to be surprised by the sex [no prenatal ultrasound then] and personality of the new member of the family. Most people have a natural urge to procreate and maternal instinct assures our love and nurture our offspring.

Having done volunteer work with Downs children, I can say they are the happiest of children, delighted with life. While their lives are usually short, it can be truly said that they enjoy what they have of life more than do most people in an average lifespan.

Paul Zrimsek said...

What's middle-class about getting married and having kids? Even peasants have been known to do it.

Ann Althouse said...

"'"Althouse's response to rhhardin shows she did not understand his point, which pertains to the origin of the emotional reactions at play.' State clearly the point you think I missed. I don't believe I did, but your comment is obscure, so I openly confess to not understanding it."

I find your use of the word "pertain" so annoying that I had the intuition that I would never use that word, and I searched this blog's 14-year archive to see if I had ever used it. I had not, not even once.

mockturtle said...

Martha, it looks like we're on the same page--and at precisely the same time! ;-)

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I can't speak to a reluctance to have a child with Down's syndrome, if that means considering abortion: I don't see how someone would consider that an option.

I can speak to a strong preference for having a healthy and able child. A child with Down's syndrome will be a net burden to society. Note that that does not in any way reduce that person's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And, in terms of pure selfishness, I not only want a relationship with my children, but with my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, etc.

rhhardin said...

State clearly the point you think I missed. I don't believe I did, but your comment is obscure, so I openly confess to not understanding it.

We differ on dogmatizing baby and fetus being the same thing.

They can be the same, and at any stage of pregnancy; or unrelated.

I'd argue from an unpromising approach, the soul, which is easier to trace the language of.

The body separates us from others, the soul relates us. (Of a horrid man: he has no soul, you might say.)

The fetus has no relations to anybody, but the parents may or may not have a relation to it. Namely in the forms of plans, building the nursery, buying kid's little baseball mitt and bat. For those parents, that's a baby in there, not a fetus.

It's not a property of the fetus but a property of people outside.

Once the fetus is cute, ultrasound and so forth, society takes an interest and it's a baby whatever the parents think.

That's how the language works.

If the parents don't think it's a baby, and society does't yet, then it's not a baby. It can't change who you are. It's just a medical problem to be solved.

If you're a dogmatizer on the matter, you may want to notice that it doesn't change who they are. As if they believed what they believed. The language doesn't work the way you thought.

CJinPA said...

They feel a sense of loss because they no longer dream that their child will get married, go to college or start a family of their own one day — in other words, that they will not meet the conventional expectations for the perfect middle-class life....

A complicated issue, but the core issue aside: the above is not merely "the conventional expectations for the perfect middle-class life." It's pretty much a universal urge to want to procreate and see your offspring flourish.

There is no reason to frame the issue with standard divisiveness and class disdain.

My name goes here. said...

Why do we have children at all?

Immortality

Glory to God

To care for us when we are old.

Ken B said...

We are discussing an emotionally freighted decision. Parents who feel a loss at the prospect of having a Down's baby, or any child suffering a serious handicap or impairment. Where do those emotions come from? They evolved. They evolved under the harsh calculus Hardin articulated. His statement need not be a wikihow for explicit use by prospective parents to be true and insightful.

Why does your dog love you? Because you feed it. But the nexus of that connection is not the dog's cost benefit analysis, it is the emotional response that has evolved. The love is real even if behind the scenes it was created by evolution's P&L statement.

James K said...

People I know who have had a Downs baby were initially devastated, but soon thrilled and overwhelmed with joy. And genuinely so, not pretend (as best as I can tell). Of course it helps to be financially comfortable, as a lot of resources and time are required.

I think having children is not a rational decision and as it becomes a 'choice' more and more people will choose not to have them

That is a very sad and erroneous judgment.

We have children because we are human and in the end procreating, nurturing, and loving another human being unconditionally is the most important, intimate, and demanding thing we humans can do in our lives.

Precisely.

holdfast said...

With our first kid, the first test showed an elevated risk for Downs. The subsequent amnio showed no Downs. The week-long wait between the two tests was rather awful. Fortunately we didn't have to make a decision. Having had to think about that decision far more than I wanted, I will not judge someone who chooses to have an abortion rather than have a Downs child - but anyone who chooses to have a Downs kid knowing what's coming has my admiration.

Birches said...

The dignity of a person goes well beyond their economic value. Many people have forgotten or never learned this.

I spent some time with a family member that was hit by a car at 15 and is mentally and physically disabled. He is still a delight.

Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandistien said...

"Barack Obama once joked on the Jay Leno show about how he bowled like someone from the Special Olympics. It would be very odd if this bias did not influence decisions on whether to give birth and parent a child with Down syndrome. This is not to say that all such decisions are motivated by bias, but this way of thinking is common, and must be a factor on a population-level in prenatal decision-making." -- the same guy

I would like to add a couple of buzzwords to complement "bias": Down syndrome kids are underrepresented at top universities and marginalized in the business world. Because ableism, which is what the Nazis did.

Nonapod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

That's putting it very clearly, but the problem I see is that when you do that you have changed who you are. You are a worse person in search of a better person

What gives you the right to judge why a woman gets an abortion?

When those White Republican men created the right to an abortion in the 14th Amendment there were no restrictions on it. It is a woman's absolute right to get an abortion for any reason at any point in her pregnancy.


Inga said...

Why do people have children? Because biology drives them to do so. The emotional reasons are because they desire the experience of child rearing, nurturing, loving the child. Hopes for the child’s future to be a good one is because one loves their child, it’s a simple as that. One can lavish love on a Down Syndrome child, whyever not? One won’t see the Downs child live the life of the typical adult, so there’s sadness over the loss of that child’s future living life as an independent adult.

Nonapod said...

Most organisms have a natural drive to reproduce, to pass on their genetic information. As far as we know, humans are the only organisms who are aware enough to choose not to.

Although there are loads of examples in nature of species with casts of individuals that do not reproduce. Insects in the hymenoptera order (ants, bees, and wasps) often have casts made up of many non-reproductive individuals (workers, soldiers) and reproductive individuals (drones and queens). From an evolutionary standpoint, the reason that occurs is due to their sex determination mechanism (haplodiploidy) that means that the non-reproductive individuals actually end up sharing 75% of their genetic material with their siblings. For reference, animals that are diploid (like us) share 50% of their generic material with their siblings, children, and parents.

Gahrie said...

One reason for embracing the system in which the parents don't get to choose but must go forward with any pregnancy that happens is that they aren't even supposed to think about whether this stranger knocking at their door is good enough for them.

What the Hell?

Abortion is the most selfish decision a woman can make, regardless of the reason.

Are you seriously trying to say that some reasons for abortion are OK and others aren't?

Why?

Ken B said...

I doubt you have used the word hebetate even once in 63 years.

rhhardin said...

Natural comes from natus, born. There's Tom Swifties all over the arguments.

A deponent verb (nascor, passive form active meaning).

CJinPA said...

I think having children is not a rational decision and as it becomes a 'choice' more and more people will choose not to have them

It IS a choice and more people in the developed world are choosing not to have them. Which is why they now say they have to import Third World workers to fuel their economies, as the native population dwindles toward extinction. That is the new rational.

rhhardin said...

Pregnant, pre-gnant.

Sebastian said...

"If those are the reasons to abort fetuses with Down syndrome, they seem disappointing — they are either self-centered or empty in their narrow-minded conventionality."

Why are we discussing ethics at all? The law, as determined by our overlords, makes perfectly clear that you can abort anything for any reason. It celebrates self-centeredness. It embraces conventionality.

Abortion is now an exercise in unrestrained autonomy. Ethical scruples are beside the point.

glenn said...

Then there’s the older than Boomer couple who drank some of the 60’s Kool-Aid and stopped at two. Both are healthy, smart and self sufficient adults. Neither has children. My wife will never teach a grandchild to cook. I’ll never get to show a grandson some of the things my grandfather taught me, or take a pretty granddaughter for a spin around the dance floor. If we’d known how it was going to turn out we would have had five. We were good at it.

rhhardin said...

The legality of abortion will end but only because of the public problem of maintaining the population. Choice isn't enough so you have to add accidents.

Fernandistien said...

Nonapod said...
end up sharing 75% of their genetic material with their siblings


In a way they're half-way between cells (100%) and siblings (50%) of diploid animals. And the "queen" should probably be called a "slave", since she creates offspring which are more related to each other than to her.

Michael said...

People also have children to make the world a better place, to pass on (we hope) the best of their history, culture, and tradition along with some social, intellectual, and financial capital to enable their kids to have a continuing, or increasing, positive impact on society. It is a form of, or aspiration toward, immortality - even if your name and everything you did are forgotten in 100 years. It is also a source if wisdom and humility: if you think you're so smart or so important, try having a couple children. Or do you just want to be smart and important?

Plus for most people parenthood can be a great shared adventure and source of satisfaction. Not everyone can cure cancer, but most people can raise fine children.

Whether you are a Person of Faith or not, there is wisdom in the Bible, and the very first commandment is "be fruitful and multiply."



wwww said...



There are thousands of children in the foster system in the United States who have not been able to find permanent families. It is particularly hard to find permanent families for older children with disabilities, mental and physical.

It is wonderful when people open their homes to a child in need. Because it is so difficult to find families, empty nesters should not think themselves as too old.

Infinite Monkeys said...

The parents have to take into consideration that the child may outlive them, or at least outlive the parents' ability to provide care. Can they save enough money so that this won't be a problem? Will the adult Down child be a burden on siblings?

rhhardin said...

Bring back Irish twins.

George Grady said...

I have two sons who have Down syndrome, one 6 and one 3. I can't imagine the depths of evil someone would have to enter in order to think that they should have been simply killed, out of hand, as an inconvenience to me and my family. They are a joy, as are all of my children, and a burden, as are all of my children---a joyful burden, and a burden that I take up joyfully. They are both completely different from my other boys, and no different whatsoever. They are a part of me and my family, and we wouldn't be the same---in fact, we would be much worse---without them.

They are as they deserve to be---with us and among us as a part of us---and they always will be.

Gahrie said...

I think having children is not a rational decision and as it becomes a 'choice' more and more people will choose not to have them

Well history tends to support this idea.

Gunner said...

Who is the better child: a high school dropout unemployed alcoholic who pops out three kids and dies at age 60 or a high school valedictorian doctor who has no kids and dies at age 60?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

George Grady said...

...a joyful burden, and a burden that I take up joyfully.

Well said, and God bless you. ( Sounds like he already has, and you were lucky enough to recognize it. )

Freeman Hunt said...

You and your spouse are in love, and out of that love you can create new beings who will also love and be loved. That is pretty amazing!

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

That's putting it very clearly, but the problem I see is that when you do that you have changed who you are. You are a worse person in search of a better person. And why are you having a baby at all if you're destroying one child in search of a better child?

And

One reason for embracing the system in which the parents don't get to choose but must go forward with any pregnancy that happens is that they aren't even supposed to think about whether this stranger knocking at their door is good enough for them.

You seem to be presenting these objections as if they are moral "facts" that everybody agrees on. If so, why? People throughout history have aborted, exposed, killed children who weren't "good enough", for precisely the reason rhhardin pointed out in the first comment, and still do - and obviously these choices are made by people with plenty of resources, not just people living at the hard edge of survival. Even societies that condemn abortion and infanticide thought about "what children are for" in terms much closer to rh's answer than airy-fairy spin about "values" and "unconditional love", etc.

"Why are you having a baby at all?" "Why are you even thinking about whether this stranger is good enough for you?" People who've made and are making those choices could give you a pretty straightforward answer to your questions, and those answers would line up with rh's. So why are you posing them as if your own premises here about "what children are for" were self-evident?

That a lot of us are morally repulsed by the answer doesn't change the reality that reproduction is driven by pretty basic biological instinct, not something completely consciously decided upon after lots of mooning about "what children are for". What percentage of the human population that has ever lived, or lives now, thought or thinks about reproducing as you do here? 1%? .01%? .001%? Just about nobody except a comparative handful of what I'll shorthand as "effete moderns"? (N.B. "Effete moderns" are not a strictly modern phenomenon.)

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm not sure why people abort children with Down's Syndrome. Is it the loss of misguided dreams or is it the imagined tremendous hassle and financial cost? If they'd let the children be born, one assumes that they would see their old fears as much smaller, manageable things, but before the fears become realities, they are magnified and made terrifying in the imagination.

Freeman Hunt said...

A great number of children, especially first children, are accidents. Hooray for the happy carelessness and accidents of love! The world would be a cramped and sadder place without them.

It is possible for two people in love to be too careful. Then death appears on the horizon; all that care and for what?

Freeman Hunt said...

If the point of children were to recreate an American, middle class arc, yuck--why bother? Buy a robot.

Being American and middle class is very nice but neither attribute even approaches a purpose for being.

rhhardin said...

airy-fairy spin about "values" and "unconditional love", etc.

I'll have to find something from Thurber's "The Lilies and Bluebirds Delusion" in _Is Sex Necessary?_

Bringing back the stork might solve it.

rhhardin said...

There's love isn't a feeling, for clearing things up.

If you don't take your kid to the dentist, they'll say you don't love him.

JAORE said...

Judy and I had our last child at age 39. Of course the Docs had her take the amnio test due to the increasing risk of Downs (and other genetic) issues. We discussed the potential outcomes. Our decision was the test could hold great value only in that we could be prepared to best raise the child whatever his/her limitations and potentials.

Not to say we are not thrilled he is healthy as a horse and bright as a penny (I cliched).

Not to say we are thrilled he's willful and (sometimes) a pain in the ass.

Inga said...

“Bring back Irish twins.”

My two oldest are Irish twins, 11 months apart.

rhhardin said...

Terry Rae Elmer, a newsbabe at KFI at the time, told John and Ken that it wasn't true that nursing prevents pregnancy. She had Irish twins. The second was an accident. "God I hope he's not listening."

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

Freeman Hunt: I'm not sure why people abort children with Down's Syndrome. Is it the loss of misguided dreams or is it the imagined tremendous hassle and financial cost? If they'd let the children be born, one assumes that they would see their old fears as much smaller, manageable things, but before the fears become realities, they are magnified and made terrifying in the imagination.

Don't discount the subtle and not-so-subtle bullying that couples expecting a Down's child can be subjected to, by medical "professionals". I don't know how common this is, but I have first-hand reports of some pretty appalling behavior.

I'm also familiar with the attitude some of these people (including genetic counselors) have about the "irresponsibility" of people who won't abort children with Down Syndrome. The ones I've personally known behaved professionally, to the best of my knowledge, and wouldn't dream of counseling parents that they "should" abort. But the deeply held belief that's really "the right thing to do" must have its effect.

It is possible for two people in love to be too careful. Then death appears on the horizon; all that care and for what?

Yup.

John Lynch said...

Many people cannot stand the idea that their children will hold a lower status in society than their own. It's not even about the child- it's about the parent's striving.

I have a son with an IQ of 65, but not Down's. He doesn't have the problems Down's children have with vision, and should escape having the heart problems and everything else. Even if he had all those problems, I wouldn't care.

He works harder than anyone I've ever met. He tries to do things that he should never be able to do, and sometimes succeeds, because no one told him he couldn't. My job is to tell anyone who tries to stop him to get the hell out of the way. There's a culture of disability, and I fight it.

IQ is not who you are.

What you do is who you are. Choosing to abort is who you are. I'm happy to say that's not who I am, and I'm glad I married a woman who never saw it as an option.

rhhardin said...

It is possible for two people in love to be too careful. Then death appears on the horizon; all that care and for what?

Publish or perish.

Mathematicians are into finding eternal truths.

Unknown said...

I'm sure peasants in the Middle Ages, plebeians in the ancient Roman world and cave dwellers were all trying to replicate a conventional arc of a successful middle-class life

John Lynch said...

My take on mental disability is this: the more someone can care for himself, the more powerful he is. True empowerment is to do as little as possible for disabled people and allow them to do as much as possible.

If a man can hold down a job and pay the rent, that's power. My son is most of the way there. I got there by making him do all the chores and learn as much math as he could. He doesn't get to sit around being disabled. I push him, I expect too much, and his brother and sister don't know any better when it comes to what he's supposed to do.

Most of all, I don't feel sorry for myself. I got this job of parent because someone thought I would be good at it. I didn't chicken out and I'm not going to quit until I die.

My son will succeed or fail because of his own choices. I have done my job, and the rest is up to him. That's the best I can do.

mockturtle said...

The real question is: What would Mengele do?

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

"Mathematicians are into finding eternal truths."

Approaching God in that way seems like another great use of a life. It seems especially well-fitted for people who don't have or don't want spouses.

What happened to most professors being confirmed bachelors? When did that end?

Ann Althouse said...

"Why are we discussing ethics at all? The law, as determined by our overlords, makes perfectly clear that you can abort anything for any reason. It celebrates self-centeredness. It embraces conventionality."

The abortion right is premised on the woman's autonomy in deciding for herself what is ethically, so you are so very wrong, but it's not surprising because many people forget that the Supreme Court said, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:

There is a "private realm of family life which the state cannot enter" and "These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."

The woman, not the people as a whole, makes her own decision and it is a philosophical decision. So ethics are absolutely central, and the importance of ethics is the reason why the decision belongs to the individual. It's very similar to the freedom to have your own religion rather than a religion dictated by the state.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Infinite Monkeys,

The parents have to take into consideration that the child may outlive them, or at least outlive the parents' ability to provide care. Can they save enough money so that this won't be a problem? Will the adult Down child be a burden on siblings?

Sorry, but this is vile. George Will never got anything so right as he did his take on Down Syndrome and the cases of Philip Becker and Infant Doe. You may possibly remember these cases, though they were maybe 35 years ago. Both had Down Syndrome.

Becker was institutionalized by his parents, who wanted nothing to do with him. Another family wanted to adopt him, and cited evidence that his biological parents didn't visit him or care for him in any way. They themselves were willing and indeed eager to do so, but were denied.

Infant Doe's case was shorter, literally. The child was born with an intestinal blockage common in Down Syndrome cases. The parents opted to forgo surgery, which meant that over the course of the next week, the child starved to death.

Will asks, "Do parents ordinarily starve their newborns?" They do if they're "defective," I guess. Evidence was presented at trial that even if the surgery were effective, it wouldn't cure the retardation. Well, that's OK then. You wanted a dead defective child, and by God, you're gonna get one.

There are cases (Tay-Sachs comes to mind) where abortion might actually be less cruel than the lingering death that awaits. Down Syndrome is not of that kind. It just means (as Will puts it) the life of a child that will not include reading NYT editorials. Or as Chesterton put it elsewhere (from memory, so probably not exact): "Are you frightened of your dog, because he's happy and fond of you and yet can't do the Fifth Proposition of Euclid?"

mockturtle said...

So an unwanted newborn may be discarded in a dumpster because a woman found it inconvenient? If not, why not? Was the baby less a baby moments before in the womb? No? Then at what point?

Sorry but the Roe v. Wade decision was more than flawed. It was fatal. And I'm ashamed to say that I was county chairman for abortion reform and went about giving speeches in its support.

Yancey Ward said...

One aspect I don't see discussed very much is this- many people who abort Down's children probably do so as to not leave a burden to their other children. This is going to be a concern to anyone who already has children or who plan to have more- a permanently handicapped child will often outlive the parents.

Sebastian said...

"So ethics are absolutely central" So you'd like to think. But the "right to define one's own concept of existence," as manufactured by Kennedy, implies nothing at all about ethics, or the need for ethics, let alone any ethical considerations of the sort Althouse might consider ethical.

"The abortion right is premised on the woman's autonomy in deciding for herself what is ethically" The abortion right is premised on fabrications and illogic. Nowhere does it require or entail anything about "deciding for herself what is ethically" [ethically best?]. If a woman decides for herself unethically, or leaves "ethical" considerations aside entirely, that does not affect her right in any way. Ethics has nothing to do with it. Pure autonomy is all, ethics be damned.

Yancey Ward said...

Michelle,

I am not so sure it is so vile. It is one thing for the parents to accept the responsibility for themselves, but in doing so they are, or at least believe they are, making the same decision for the siblings and other family. I have, fortunately, never faced such a decision, but it would be on my mind- the downstream effects on others of the decision I make today. It would be a factor.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Infinite Monkeys,

I almost forgot what I meant to post about. Parents of Down Syndrome children have to care for them just like other children. Siblings have to care for them just like other siblings. Heaven forfend that a particular child should become a "burden." "Am I my brother's keeper?" asked Cain. Not if he has Down; better then that he goes the way of babies in Iceland, which has lately eradicated Down Syndrome entirely, by the simple expedient of aborting every baby bearing it.

n.n said...

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

The question then becomes: When, and by whose Choice, does a human life acquire and retain the right to life?

This is not about science, where the chaotic development (e.g. "evolution") of human life, withing a limited frame of reference, is clear, and even self-evident. The Natural fitness function is Duck Dynasties. The human fitness function is more complex. This is a religious/moral issue, or perhaps a stability issue, and different people will reconcile, or avoid judgment, and reach different conclusions. Thus the tribal nature of humanity.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Yancey,

But the same holds true for any birth. If you have a child, any child, its siblings are manifestly implicated. It will presumably share in inheritance, which means less for the others, for example.

Yancey Ward said...

But it isn't the same, Michelle. Not legally, and arguably not ethically. Like it or not, abortion is legal, forced euthanasia is not. Fate can, of course, disable a previously normal sibling, but fate of that kind is different from those during the period before birth- decisions can be made by the parents in one case and not the other.

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

There is a "private realm of family life which the state cannot enter"

But apparently this realm only consists of a mother's right to kill her child before birth. Or is there any other decision that the state is prevented from interfering with?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Ann Althouse said...

It's very similar to the freedom to have your own religion rather than a religion dictated by the state.

I'm pretty sure the state would dictate that you may not practice your religion if that practice involved killing other people. So it's not that similar.

lgv said...

So, if we discover a "gay" gene, we can abort because the baby will not be able to grow to be what we envisioned for our child. OK, I get it now. What if they are deaf, or blind, or without the capacity to speak? What if we they are without an arm or a leg?

What if it's a girl and not a boy like you wanted? You already have 4 girls, so just abort? It is about choice. The woman's choice.

If we support the legitimacy of complete choice, then their is no ethics question.


Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

AA to Sebastian: "Why are we discussing ethics at all? The law, as determined by our overlords, makes perfectly clear that you can abort anything for any reason. It celebrates self-centeredness. It embraces conventionality."

The abortion right is premised on the woman's autonomy in deciding for herself what is ethically, so you are so very wrong...


There's a word missing after ethically, but I'm going to assume you meant "ethically correct", or the like.

Sebastian is still correct. If you accept the twaddle about autonomy and private ethical decision handed down in Roe, then you end up right where he says you end up - with "why are we discussing ethics at all?". It's an entirely private ethical decision, right? Based on entirely private ethical reasoning, right? So if some other woman's "philosophical decision" is the product of a private ethical system with entirely different premises than yours about "why one has a baby", what is there for you to talk about?

Everything you say here about "why are you having a baby at all" is based on your private ethical premises, which, according to you, no one else is obliged to share. (To paraphrase what somebody said above, "[i]t's very similar to the freedom to have your own religion rather than a religion dictated by Althouse".)

The woman, not the people as a whole, makes her own decision and it is a philosophical decision. So ethics are absolutely central, and the importance of ethics is the reason why the decision belongs to the individual.

Wut? This doesn't even make any sense. It's not just circular, it's meta-circular. It certainly doesn't address Sebastian's point.

Fernandistien said...

Sebastian said...
Why are we discussing ethics at all?


Because everyone is well fed.

Ethical scruples are beside the point.

Well, there's always pretentious, self-serving mental masturbation to indulge in:

"but it's not surprising because many people forget that the Supreme Court said, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:"

Government lawyers as philosophers! I think I'd prefer the philosophical ramblings of some GAO accountants.

Jonathan Graehl said...

-> the Malthusian family.

Ann Althouse said...

“There's a word missing after ethically, but I'm going to assume you meant "ethically correct", or the like.”

Sorry. I meant to write “ethical.” Just cut the -ly.

buwaya said...

Zrimsek and Unknown, above, are correct.
The "middle class" thing is absurd.
The peasant in his ricefield wants the best possible heirs, strong and healthy sons and daughters, no less than the great landowner. This is built in to the fully functional human animal.

Ann Althouse said...

“I'm pretty sure the state would dictate that you may not practice your religion if that practice involved killing other people. So it's not that similar.”

You’re imposing your own ethical judgment. That is what is reserved for the woman in whose body the condition exists. The legal proposition is that no one else can determine if the previability fetus/embryo is a person and impose that view on the woman.

It’s like the way freedom of religion doesn’t depend on belief in God. The whole area of thought, of conscience, is for the individual.

n.n said...

[color] Diversity is a religious/moral imperative.

Abortion rites are a religious/moral imperative.

Political Congruence ("=") is a religious/moral imperative.

Social justice adventures, opening abortion fields, forcing catastrophic anthropogenic immigration reform, redistributive change, retributive change, are religious/moral imperatives.

Maybe, it is ethics or situational mortality (i.e. Pro-Choice), or an irreconcilable cult, that is informed by illuminations from the twilight fringe.

So, when and by whose choice, does a human life acquire and retain the right to life?

Liberalism, or divergent ideology, and [unqualified] ethics masking quasi-religious/moral beliefs, engender clear and progressive collateral damage that has historically required excessive use of force to resolve.

n.n said...

choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty

Constructing congruences to provide comfort in the wake of wicked choices, solutions, is not central to liberty. Self-moderating, responsible behavior is central to liberty. Establishing a philosophy that is internally, externally, and mutually consistent, is central to liberty. The alternative is a totalitarian state that denies dignity and life, with an amoral, atheist progression that has been the convention of the human condition.

RigelDog said...

I didn't exactly know why I wanted to have children at the time. Now I realize that you (should) have children because that's how you grow your family. And family is (usually) the best thing ever. Simple. I would not choose ahead of time to have a child with physical and mental challenges, such as a child with Down's, but I would not abort once pregnant.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

AA to IiB:

“I'm pretty sure the state would dictate that you may not practice your religion if that practice involved killing other people. So it's not that similar.”

You’re imposing your own ethical judgment. That is what is reserved for the woman in whose body the condition exists. The legal proposition is that no one else can determine if the previability fetus/embryo is a person and impose that view on the woman.


Yes, that is the legal proposition currently. At other times and places that was not the legal proposition, and the ethical judgment of whether and when the fetus was a person was not reserved to the woman. (Just as it is not the ethical proposition held by lots of people right now). IOW, the state dictated that she could not exercise her "private ethical judgment" about the personhood of the fetus anymore than she could in do so in deciding the personhood of people she didn't happen to be carrying in her body.

I'm really not sure what your point is in this thread. You appear to be flipping evasively between explaining the current legal re abortion (which I don't think anyone is unaware of), to citing chapter and verse of Roe as if it had some kind of definitive ethical, philosophical bearing on the other stuff re "why you are having a baby" you're talking about here. (Hint: It doesn't.)

Freeman Hunt said...

"The legal proposition is that no one else can determine if the previability fetus/embryo is a person and impose that view on the woman."

200 years ago: No one else can determine if the slave is a person and impose that view on the owner.

Additionally, animals are generally not considered persons, and yet, if you tear a dog limb from limb, you're probably going to jail.

Gahrie said...

"The legal proposition is that no one else can determine if the previability fetus/embryo is a person and impose that view on the woman."

If it's not a person, then what is it?

Gahrie said...

That is what is reserved for the woman in whose body the condition exists. The legal proposition is that no one else can determine if the previability fetus/embryo is a person and impose that view on the woman.

Because of a "right" discovered by the Supreme Court, that nobody realized was there for a hundred years, in an amendment that concerns overturning Dred Scott and Reconstruction, written at a time when abortion was considered murder and doesn't mention "privacy" or "abortion" at all. And according to current law, that right extends up to immediately before birth, and in some botched abortions even during birth, so what is all this "previability" bullshit?

Are you going to pretend that you now support making some abortions illegal? At what point in the pregnancy and why?

Gahrie said...

We fought a war over the fact that some people believed they had the right to determine who was a person and who wasn't.

Gahrie said...

It’s like the way freedom of religion doesn’t depend on belief in God. The whole area of thought, of conscience, is for the individual.

What if you're an Aztec and believe that your God requires human sacrifice?

Gahrie said...

Additionally, animals are generally not considered persons, and yet, if you tear a dog limb from limb, you're probably going to jail.

Hell start giving dogs abortions and see what happens.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Ann Althouse said...

You’re imposing your own ethical judgment.

Society imposes its ethical judgment on people all the time. It would impose its ethical judgement on me if my religion commanded me to murder people.

That is what is reserved for the woman in whose body the condition exists. The legal proposition is that no one else can determine if the previability fetus/embryo is a person and impose that view on the woman.

Nobody is attempting to impose that view on the woman. The woman has ever right to have her own view, just as I have the right to believe I should be allow to commit murder. I just don't have the right to actually commit it.

Anonymous said...

Is "pertain" like "moist"? And "garner"?

Anonymous said...

"Gunner said...

"Who is the better child: a high school dropout unemployed alcoholic who pops out three kids and dies at age 60 or a high school valedictorian doctor who has no kids and dies at age 60?"

Not enough information.

My first reaction was to ask, do I live long enough to see the three grandkids? And are they valedictorians or unemployed?

My more considered reaction was to ask, which kid is a nicer, more decent person?

Anonymous said...

"Gahrie said...

"There is a 'private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.'

"But apparently this realm only consists of a mother's right to kill her child before birth. Or is there any other decision that the state is prevented from interfering with?"

Birth control (Griswold v. Connecticut) and consensual butt-f**king (Lawrence v. Texas).

John Lynch said...

I am suspicious of elaborate arguments that purport to prove that a person isn't a person, or that some people matter more than other people.

Isaiah Abrams said...

We have children to place ourselves within the great chain of being. It's much more of a conscious decision to not have children, and more of a natural unconscious decision to have them. I can't get my mind around the idea that there is any sort of idea associated with reproducing.