Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Choice, not an Eco

Wesley Smith has an interesting article about modern eugenics in the latest Weekly Standard.


It is a bitter irony that even as we are enlarging our commitment to human equality in many areas, we are turning our backs on it in others. In particular, we may be about to eliminate from our society people with Down syndrome (DS) and other genetically caused disabilities. . . . A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2005 found that of the approximately 5,000 babies born with DS annually, only about 625 were born to mothers who knew of their baby’s condition before birth. . . . Under the regimen of universal prenatal genetic testing urged upon us by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the number of DS babies born each year could plummet below 1,000.

Smith’s piece could use a slightly different lede: "Why is it that the same people who oppose genetically modified foods and pesticides seldom apply the same logic to member of their own species?"

Discussions - 4 Comments

"Why is it that the same people who oppose genetically modified foods and pesticides seldom apply the same logic to member of their own species?"

Because we control our destiny while all other life forms are victims of our poor stewardship. Or so goes the argument.

There's a subtle line here that I suspect is blurred. The article quoted laments the eventual decline in Down syndrome babies. But how much of the lament is really tied up in the relationship with abortion? Put another way, if science could come up with a way to prevent from joining a sperm and ovum such that DS babies would never be conceived, what would be the argument against that?

This is, of course, thorny territory. Imagine such a technique being used to insure no homosexual children. No un-athletic children. No girls.

One argument is that we're toying wtih God's natural process. But haven't we crossed that line a long time ago?

Does crossing the line mean we should stay across?

"Does crossing the line mean we should stay across?"

No, but there are degrees of crossing the line. The implication of the article is that aborting a fetus known to have Down syndrome is an ethical breach. Let's say that it is.

My question: would preventing the conception be an equivalent ethical breach?

To my eye the idea of preventing something is entirely different from terminating something. But the waters get murky depending on the extent of the beforehand knowledge. Preventing the conception of a seriously disabled child seems desirable -- I can't imagine anyone wants a DS child, though many (bless their hearts) are quite willing to accept and love such a child.

Each of us use modern advances to change the outcome of what otherwise would be "natural." Receiving a course of antibiotics is an "unnatural" intervention in what otherwise might have been my death. If that is "toying with God's natural purpose" and is acceptable, how could using knowledge to avoid an undesirable conception be unacceptable?

To my eye the idea of preventing something is entirely different from terminating something.

Of course, the Roman Church has been very consistent on this for a long time. The "prevention" is still a "playing God" sort of act. Thus, the no contraception dogma.

Receiving a course of antibiotics is an "unnatural" intervention in what otherwise might have been my death. If that is "toying with God's natural purpose" and is acceptable, how could using knowledge to avoid an undesirable conception be unacceptable?

Not in the same category. A conception is a "creative" act in a way that preventing or curing disease is not. A conception implies a Person, the whole person with all his advantages (i.e. health) and all his disadvantages (i.e. handicaps such as Downs). A Person is a whole, a soul that eats, suffers, hopes, loves. The body is not something "added" to it in a purely functional way, so that it becomes an object of the human will purely to be tinkered with like a machine. That is why Christianity has stubbornly clung to the "resurrection of the body" - because of the truth of what happens when the body becomes a mere object of the human will...

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