Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Study That Shows That Some Human Beings Are Less Well Protected Than Endangered Species

Here are what should be some disturbing reflections on the near disappearance of Americans with Down Syndrome. This is, from one view, an example of eugenics that really works. From another, it’s early evidence of the misanthropy that animates our biotechnological quest for perfect babies.

Discussions - 55 Comments

I understand your concerns, but it’s really kind of crazy to say that we shouldn’t screen for genetic malformation. Would you insist someone be born if you knew they would suffer extrememly painful, short lives? I think not. And speaking of inconsistency, if it is God’s Will that these children be born, is it also God’s Will that we suffer illness without treatment? That we never try to improve the physical side of our existence? I admit it’s a slippery slope, but suggesting that whatever happens is destiny is rather silly. God gave us brains and the ability to provide for ourselves...aborting genetic errors is part and parcel of providing for ourselves.

Dain this has to be the worst post I have ever seen from you. I hae never argued wth you directly, but I am pretty disgusted by the above. First of all, Downs childrens’ lives are different than yours or mine, but they are not unendingly painful or worthless. They are people, not genetic errors, with names, families, likes, dislikes, loves, interests, etc. These are people for the love of God, not errors. In fact many work, and a few have even married. The argument you are making is so typical of pro abort tactics. Make every sick unborn child a victim of the worst forms of spina biffida or other horribly painful and rare genetic malformations, then make the faux compassionate argument in favor of murdering in the womb on account of their potential "suffering" anyone who might constitute an inconvenience to the fattest, most decadent, most spoiled and self indulgent society in the history of mankind.

Your argument that if it is God’s will for Downs children to be born it must be God’s will for people to go without medical treatment is bizarre and not even remotely reasonable -unless you view shooting someone the minute they inconvenience society as a form of "medical treatment." No one on this board has even remotely suggested sick people go untreated for religious reasons. I am am not aware of Dr Lawker attending some sort of snake handling word of faith church where doctors are shunned. I am pretty sure he is Catholic. Killing th sick and teh weak does not improve the general health.

Is your real argument here that every individual sick person drags down the species? That is what your argument implies. Germany had a leader who took a similar view of the effect of the sick, retarded, and malformed on society.

During my last three pregnancies, I had to refuse amniocentesis and sign off on my refusal. Insurance companies demand it as protection against liability. A woman not adequately warned might sue for "wrongful birth". I could not see performing a "search and destroy" mission against my child. There are harder things than Down’s Syndrome to deal with in some children, and there is no screening against those things I am considering and remembering.

dain, you make it sound like killing my child, if he had been deformed, would have been simple self-defense, proper provision, good stewardship, in Christian terms. God’s will? To take my child would be to become like God. I do not want that job. No, thanks.

Many years ago, my wife and I decided on amniocentisis because she had had two miscarriages (i.e., spontaneous abortions). I just now turned to her and asked "Would you have been willing to abort had we found serious problems?" She said "Yes, at that time perhaps. Now, no way." You see, she was always a very religious person, and now moreso. So, please, folks, you aren’t dealing with a Nazi here, nor with someone who is strongly pro-choice. I consider myself pro-life for the most part.

Nonetheless, there will be times that genetic flaws are so severe that only the craziest person would insist on live-birth. We aren’t talking about inconveniences here, but generally a life sentence for both the parents and the child. I simply do not feel comfortable having society decide this for parents. I am not advocating abortion on demand...there needs to be a serious medical reason for the decision (no designer babies here, please!). You all must realize that Downs’ Syndrome varies quite a bit...some children are sweet and functional, others are utterly dependent and have multiple medical problems. In short, for some, it is a life of pain that they simply cannot understand or even use to build character. I see no purpose in that kind of suffering.

So slam away, folks. As I said, I realize it’s a slippery slope...I am making no hard stand here. Abortion is nothing I would ever take lightly. Nonetheless, we interfere with "God’s Will" on a daily basis...and the fact is, you people really don’t know what God wants, and neither do I.

Pardon me, Dr Lawler
sorry, typo

We are the first society to take such a positive view of people with these problems. Not sure what that means, but WM betrays a lack of history by going so crazy.

Spartans and Romans rountinely killed children born with birth defects. Tacitus made fun of the Jews for not allowing their fathers to kill such babies.

Perhaps even more troubling for conservative Americans, Locke in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding describes killing various "monsters" very matter of factly. He was arguing some epistemological point, I believe that a substance must have various attrbitues or it is not the "thing", and his example is that monsters are not human because people kill them as soon as they are born, and it would be wrong to kill a human, therefore they are not human (not sure why Locke did not see the circularity of the argument). Apparently such a practice was common in 17th century England and it did not bother anyone. I have a suspicion that the practice started to be frowned upon in Victorian times (romantical movement) and would not be surprised if we do not revert back to the practice prior to that as we now focus more on science than feelings.

I guess the question is, Steve, were they right for doing so? It is not so troubling for a conservative to believe that the Spartans, Romans, and, gasp, even John Locke, could have been wrong on some things.

I don’t think Dain is a monster or even a "Nazi" (his term, not anyone else’s, so far as I can see), but reflective of an important and inflential view in our society - namely, that the overriding moral imperative is to reduce suffering. There’s something powerful in that claim: it’s hard to see the "good" in any sort of suffering and if it’s in our power to ameliorate or correct it, it seems a "good" to do so.

I’ve been teaching Augustine recently, though, and one of the things that he seems to emphasize repeatedly is the view that even in attempting to secure good things - like, say, earthly peace or an end to suffering - we can and are likely to sin and even cause more grevious harms than those we had tried correcting in the first place. What’s more, he tries to teach us (if we’re able to hear) that the bad things that happen in this world, while truly bad, aren’t meaningless and thus it’s a mistake to try and eradicate them from our lives.

Dain asks - and it’s a good question - how is it that when we know someone will suffer horribly we should let it happen? It’s a good question, but it asks, I think, a second one that might be a bit more uncomfortable to Dain. We all suffer, many of us awfully, at some point in our lives. Why should we at all persist? If the overriding moral imperative is to reduce suffering, there’s one sure way to do it. Now, it’s a bit of a reductio ad absurdum argument, but we can make it less so. Suppose we can test for the genetic factors for intelligence or violence or whatever - would it be right to, er, "screen" for those traits? Why or why not?

Very thoughtful posts. Steve Sparks is right on Locke, which either should give me pause about my sensitivites or give us all pause about the adequacy of using Locke alone for understanding our co untry.

Isn’t what Dain is saying essentially what the pro-choice movement has said about every abortion? Even in the case of "elective" abortions, these are tough moral decisions that implicate innumerable judgments (ethical, religious, metaphysical, etc) that society as a whole can never attain sufficient certainty to make (even if certain segments claim that their faith gives them that level of certainty--mine doesn’t and neither does that of most Americans). Perhaps it is best to leave the decision to the woman in consultation with her family, friends, medical advisors, faith community, etc, rather than to a bunch of politicians. It is possible to use persuasion (sidewalk protests, etc) rather than the coercive power of the state.

Nope, that’s not what I’m "essentially" saying. I see more as a trade-off (I’m not much of an absolutist in such matters). The right of unborn children to social protection must be weighed against the right of parents. In most circumstances, the unborn have the greater claim -- their lives matter more than the convenience of the parents. Genetic malformation, on the other hand, is in the same category as rape and incest...the parents’ claims may hold more weight in such circumstances. Moreover, if the quality of life for the child is clearly questionable, I think it best to err on the side of parental choice.

This discussion is always so abortion under ANY circumstances...abortion on demand regardless of circumstances. I think the wisdom of the people dictates a more reasonable approach.

Dain said, "Genetic malformation, on the other hand, is in the same category as rape and incest...the parents’ claims may hold more weight in such circumstances. Moreover, if the quality of life for the child is clearly questionable, I think it best to err on the side of parental choice." But Simpson’s question remains unanswered: at what point do we draw the line? If a fetus/child has the genes that will make them inclined to be violent, or they’ll probably suffer from depression, or they’ll be kind of dumb, or whatever, how do you decide when to draw the line? I think this is a legitimate question to ask that doesn’t need to be categorized as absolutist (I think it’s the slippery slope Dain kept mentioning earlier). On a side note the movie Gattaca is an excellent film that focusses on this sort of question.


Is it reasonable to kill an innocent life at its earliest stages of development?

If THAT is reasonable, then I most certainly would rather be an extremist!

Compromise on this, as we have done, will, and already has, lead to more compromises, which will then mean that we have compromised ourselves literally to death.

I’m sorry, but many of you folks are on the extremist end of this question. Can’t get an abortion if you are raped? Can’t get an abortion if your child is hydrocephallic? I’m sorry, that isn’t reasonable at all...and I think I’m done here. Almost any policy decision can become a "slippery slope." And almost any compromise can be gainsaid by screaming "slippery slope."

And you folks wonder why you’ve made so little headway on this question since Roe v. Wade.

My sister has a child (now 4 and beautiful) who, she was told while pregnant, had a high probability of having Downs or some even more tragic condition. Further testing ruled these things out but the one thing they were certain of is that the baby would have a cleft lip and palate. (Sometimes cleft is associated with other disorders like Downs or other cranio-facial syndromes). All through the testing, my sister was counseled to abort. She was appalled. She wanted the testing only because the information they were giving her was so horrible that she could not sleep at night. She had to know what ailed her baby. And, she wanted to get started on finding the best doctors she could find to help her child. In the end, she was told that the baby just had the cleft and probably nothing else. But, they told her, she could still abort--plenty of people do and, after all, she was still young and could have plenty of other "normal" babies!

If you could see Madison today you would be astonished that anyone could ever for a moment think of doing such a thing or call her anything other than normal. She is absolutely beautiful and has more spunk in her than most other kids her age. And she’s smart as a whip to boot. I don’t know if our society has come to this place (where we seek perfection so relentlessly that we become the monsters) because of a too heavy emphasis on science over sentiment. That may have something to do with it on the edges, but I think it more probably has to do with the loss of ordered souls with humility before God. Dain is right in saying that none of us really knows what God wants in every particular of every situation. But we do know that he has commanded us to love our neighbors and to comfort the sick. So if we are going to use science to help us in that effort then I think more praise should be directed to the kind of doctors who helped make my niece whole again and much less directed to those doctors who counseled my sister to "get rid of her problem" and made her sick and nervous during her pregnancy! Everyone in my family is better off because of Madison, that’s all I know.

I completely agree with Julie except to say that our eugenics are based on the victory of sentiment over science.
A person with Down syndrome usually is, the facts are, someone who is according to any reasonable definition a fully functioning human being who is at least as happy as most of us. I actually know stuff this time. My wife’s sister, Sara, lives with us, and it’s perfectly true that we’re much better off because of her. The danger is, as Julie says, that our MDs don’t only present the facts to mothers about the genetic condition, but also the pro-abortion "malformation" spin. Do they ever say that it’s very, very likely that you’ll love the kid and be actually be glad to handle the relatively minimal problems?

The post was about Downs babies. By the time we were done with the thread we were calling sick babies "monsters" and accusing people who opposed murdering them in the womb of opposing abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother - despite the fact that no one posted any such thing. I suppose this takes attention away from Dain’s "improve the physical side of our existence... aborting genetic errors" argument. Dain you are backpedaling like crazy, even throwing in a no doubt true and spectacularly sad personal story - I have one of my own - but in large measure this serves only to obscure the terrible thing you wrote in your first post. I did not call you a Nazi, I simply pointed out that a more emphatic version of your eugenic preferences were state policy in Germany long before the persecution of minorities began. In fact, the euthanasia laws against the sick and handicapped preceded all other state persecutions in Germany - they were the top of the slippery slope. This does not make you a Nazi, or a racist or fascist, or anything else, but it ought to make you uncomfortable to be using the genetic hygene arguments you used. It makes me uncomfortable to read them.

As grating is the "lack of historical perspective" argument, Mr Sparks. It betrays the shallowness of your historical knowledge, not mine. If you like the Spartan precedent as normative, I suggest you accept the whole package of the agoge: underfeeding growing boys and forcing them to steal to increase their toughness, beating them within an inch of their lives or to death for small infractions, forced sodomy of early adolescents, life in a barracks until late middle age, rigid conformity or total exclusion, and the brutal enslavement of 60% of the population. Or did we just like the infanticide as normative?

Historical perspective does not involve cherry-picking one random facet of a society and arguing, "they did it, it must be normal." In fact, that is in itself a brilliant illustration of a lack of historical perspective. The Aztecs ripped people’s hearts out and threw them down the temple stairs - sometimes 30,000 in a day - not even Dain thinks that is normal. Why? Historical perspective comes from studying an entire society in depth and learning why their ethical system developed as it did. Then, perhaps, some claims can be made about the present day. Tacitus made fun of the Jews for not practicing infanticide because he was part of a culture which raised slaves up from children in order to have them murder each other in the arena, a culture where life had become outrageously cheap, a culture where the pater familius could kill a disobedient son or daughter without reprecussion.

We have a precarious, daily more precarious, grasp on the Judeo Christian tradition. Nietzsche singled out Jewish ethics for so much vitriol because he recognized how singular their ethic was in all of history. When we lose it - and it won’t be long - "monster" will be defined not only as inconvenient infants, but also as inconvenient 35 year olds. Last century was so full of the quick disposal of "monsters" that the mongols would have wept for pity. I’ll take the ethical monotheism of the Jews, with all their historic flaws, over the agoge of the Spartans, the casual brutality of imperial Rome, teh butchery of the 20th century which always started by defining away the other’s humanity, or the brave new world we are becoming. It is remarkable to me that in an alledgedly Judeo Christian movement like conservatism we can find so many people who are fine with "selecting" downs children out of existence. The slippery slope is a fact of human behavior - as conservatives we ought to err on the side of life.

I agree with wm.

I have never understood the argument that aborting a person who was conceived as a result of rape is "reasonable". Most people sentimentally gravitate to this argument, because they understand the trauma that rape is. Still, what is the point of killing the innocent person who was conceived by this traumatic event? The arguments are always of the "child would remind the women/husband/family of the ’violation’". In other words, the person is killed because of the strong sentiment of the women/family who falsely transfer the guilt of the rapist to the innocent child. This is evidence to me that reason has nothing to do with it - the fact that "I feel very strongly about it" is used to define what is "reasonable"...


Your passion clouds your reasoning process. I did not argue past historical precedent made an activity good, rather it only meant Dain’s approach to such matters was not irrational or crazy, something you seemed to imply in your first post on this subject.

I suppose you could argue that all societies that did not follow your beliefs were crazy or irrational, but that would be a hard argument to make. Something can be morally wrong and yet be rational, which is all I was saying.

When I was in grade school a friend of mine had a cousin who had Downs Syndrome. His name was Billy. One day my friend said, "You know, Billy is smarter than a lot of people. I mean, he has more common sense."

Abortion is not reasonble.

We can’t do much when nature has it happen, but we don’t have to follow nature in all her brutal glory.

To kill an innocent for the transgression of someone else is called reasonable.

Again, call me an extremist.

Well said, wm. You give me hope.

WM, discussing my ideas and comparing them to the Nazi is associating me with fascist thugs. If you don’t want people to jump to that conclusion, then don’t use ’ad hitlerim’ arguments.

I have made perfectly reasonable arguments...the plurality of Americans see this issue as I do (you can look up the surveys...even the ones who don’t play games with wording). Making a women bear a fruit of a rape! God, that’s despicable. Letting the mother die in childbirth...that’s boneheaded. Allowing the birth of genetic "monsters" (a word I have not used until now)...that’s foolish and anti-life (in the long-term). Nature spontaneously aborts most of these "monsters," and yet mankind must not do so? Poppycock.

I’ve tried to be reasonable, but few of you are being reasonable on this thread. My’ll get nothing of what you want on this issue because you want too much.

This issue is very complex and difficult. To treat it as though it is not is truly dehumanizing.

First, to alter one’s own future to accommodate an unwanted human life is not a trivial thing. The sheer human cost of raising and educating another human is staggering. Add to that the fact of being an unwanted child, and the impact of that unwantedness on the child, and you have two ingredients for disaster.

Second, many of you keep using the term "person," even though that designation is by no means a clear conclusion. A zygote, an embryo, an early fetus -- these have very little in common with a "person," and to simplify this part of the issue is also to distort the issue, and thus, to demean it.

And finally, there IS the question of moral calculus! People who post on this web and have no problem at all committing our country’s human resources to killing our enemies, along with countless innocent "collateral" deaths, are suggesting that it is abhorrent to measure the value of a young woman’s life against that of an embryo.

I don’t consider myself "pro-choice," though I lean that way when I consider all the variables and arguments. But I do take exception to arguments that characterize the issue as simple.

The amniocentesis test is usually carried out between 16 and 18 weeks in a pregnancy. I give you fetus, but not exactly "early". At 18 weeks you can feel the - whoever, or must I say, whatever? - moving about. At 16
to 18 weeks, the - whatever’s - body has quite a bit in common with some "person’s" body. 75% of all miscarriages occur in the first trimester. Therefore, most "monsters" are gone before the above-mentioned test is given, as they are fatally deformed.

I do not think anyone said anything about some goodness in letting a pregnant mother die, which would be irrational.

We have just been through a week-by-week watch of my daughter-in-law’s pregnancy. She was not supposed to be able to get pregnant,(weighing about 77 lbs. on a good day and having a few health problems) nor was expected to be able to carry a - whatever- beyond the first months, and had miscarried before. (Her doctors would not put her on birth control pills because of their chemical implications in her system. I never asked what they did in the way of prevention, instead.) I call it a week-by-week watch because she was risking her life to carry the child and was only allowed to proceed with that close obstetrical supervision. Honestly, I thought myself entirely pro-life, but always with the self-defense option left open. So, when we first found out she was pregnant and she was terrified she would die, as some of her doctors told her, we left the option of abortion open to her. I offered to pull the tonsils out of the throat of anyone in our church who dared to challenge her if she did decide to terminate. The first six months of pregnancy went well. Then, we did almost lose her, but by the time she was in trouble, she had felt the baby - or whatever - move, knew her sex, had chosen a name and actually, she had considered her baby a person nearly from the beginning, so that termination only seemed possible to her in an extreme case of self-defense. Ami overcame her fear, put up with weeks of frightful pain, living for weeks in hospital rooms. Why? Simply because, having faced death all of her life, she could not see killing her - whatever- if life was possible. It was an unexpected, undesirable pregnancy, but the child was not unwanted.

The issue is NOT simple, and yes, the "wanted" part is key. Unwanted children are a horror in terms of what happens to them, whether in perfect form or not. But surely the true horror in the case of the unwanted child is the parent who is not capable of wanting that child.

I had to take a break to serve dinner.

My point is that we have to presume that life is good. If life is good, then we ought to preserve and protect it, which is Fung’s point about war. (Though I do not see how being anti-war, if that is the rationale, can translate into anything other than being pro-life.) Even if life is not perfectly good, it is nearly always good enough that a person with little reason to live, because life is difficult, or because life is painful, will cling to life, anyway. Look around the world and it is incredible how tenacious people are when it comes to life. Why would we choose to deny it to anyone, even if difficult?

Dain says "Making a women bear a fruit of a rape! God, that’s despicable." What is despicable is that we would kill an innocent life because it is the "fruit" of a violent and evil act. Two wrongs do not make a right. Fung says "Second, many of you keep using the term "person,...and to simplify this part of the issue is also to distort the issue, and thus, to demean it." Your distinction (that there is a ’strong difference’) may be "materially" correct (i.e. small "group of cells" vs. a grown adult) but most people rightly look at a person as more than their material makeup - at least more than what modernism means by ’material’). Thus, most folks recognize the potential, the real personhood of someone conceived, mainly because they themselves were once a "lump of cells" and they understand their own inherit value, even at that stage. What is "demeaning" is not this view, but rather yours that insists on only a materialistic view of man...

Christopher - It is only materialistic if you simplify what I said, and of course, that is the main thing that I was trying to address in my comment, so I don’t know if you will read this correctly.

I also addressed the quality of life for a parent and for a child in the situation where that child was not wanted, but was born, anyway. What is materialistic about that?

I will tell you this: Given the choice between saving 100 embryos and 1 2-year-old child from a burning building, I would save the child. That may not be mathematically logical, and it may not be the "materialist" choice, but it is what I would do, because there is a very real, perceivable, valuable difference between an embryo (and a fetus) and a person with hopes, history, and attachments.

I teach about prenatal development, and I know a great deal about delayed and abnormal development, as well. I worked for four years in an institution for the Mentally Retarded in the 1980’s. I have spent Christmas with hundreds of unwanted children and adults, and I have comforted a woman whose sterilization was forced upon her because whe was "Mildly Retarded." I have fathered two children, and have gone through some less successful pregnancies, as well. It is NOT a simple question, and a simple answer does not exist.

I also addressed the quality of life for a parent and for a child in the situation where that child was not wanted, but was born, anyway. What is materialistic about that?

Because the term "quality" and the measures thereof are almost always defined in material terms and emotional terms. A child conceived as a result of a rape (the example above - not yours perhaps) is defined as "unwanted". What does that mean? If I do not "want" my child, or my neighbor, or my enemy, what then do I do? Do I have a "right" to kill said unwanted child/neighbor/enemy?

Of course, I am speaking from a tradition (specifically the Christian tradition) that does not view human life in terms of "unwanted" and "wanted". Whether I "want" my life, or the life of my child, or the life of a burdensome neighbor is irrelevant. Their life has "ultimate" value, something beyond my material and emotional wants, needs, and desires. This other dimension - a dimension that is higher in the "hierarchy of value" than material or emotional wants, is something that is missing in so much of this debate.

Specifically, you can throw in the "multi-dimensional" aspect of this, and rightly point to the fact that this is not a "simple" issue - but if you end up at a place where you value the emotional/material state of the mother higher than the inherent value of the child, then you end up at the same place as the materialist, justifying the murder of said child.

Finally, I too would rescue the child. However, that does not mean the embryo’s are without value, or that perceived/real value of the emotional and material state of some can lead to their intentional killing. An accident like a fire is different than an abortion...

Christopher (& co.), here’s my prediction: Until your views on abortion encompass the (minimal) rights of women, you’ll go nowhere on this issue. No woman should be forced to bear a child that was forced on her, and no woman should have to die for the sake of a birth. Some of you folks really are fanatical on this...that’s a shame.

The problem with Christopher’s argument is it does not take into account sin and scarcity. In politics it is a well taken maxim that one chooses the lesser wrong. It is simply not possible to always achieve perfection on Earth.

In the rape situation there are two innocent parties (mother and child). One of the two will have to lose. One weighs the interests of each and tries to pick a decision resulting in the least amount of harm/wrong.

By refusing to recognize human weakness, common fears, and desires, Christopher’s moral code becomes almost worthless. One cannot expect humans to live like gods or angels given our constraints, finite time and scarcity.

In the rape situation there are two innocent parties (mother and child). One of the two will have to lose. One weighs the interests of each and tries to pick a decision resulting in the least amount of harm/wrong.

Well, sort of. Here, the clear "weight" is the life of the innocent child, vs. the mothers wish to be free of her "victim hood" and her very real emotional/physical trauma and future burden. Any moral calculus that would weigh her "pain" as something greater than the life (in all it’s dimensions) of the child is really simple hedonism, as it values the life of the least amount of pain above all else.

One cannot expect humans to live like gods or angels given our constraints, finite time and scarcity.

Strange, a moral hierarchy that sees the value of both the child (in all it’s dimensions) and his mother is something of the gods...well, part of assertion is true in that I do recognize Revelation...still, one does not need to strive to live like a god to see that the child life "weighs" more than the mother’s emotional and material "needs" here...

Dain wrote

And you folks wonder why you’ve made so little headway on this question since Roe v. Wade.

The reason why headway on this question has been stifled is because Conservatives haven’t changed the nature of their argument. This thread (and virtually any other Conservative discussion of abortion) is ultimately legislative (READ: up for moral debate) in nature; make the case against abortion from a moral position, and attempt to pursuade our Federal Legislature to enact laws in support of our position.

It seems to me that, with the adjudication of Roe, abortion has become a legal issue. IMHO, Conservatives should attack abortion from a Federalism and Original-Intent standpoint; cite the 10th Ammendment, argue against "substantive due process" (how a process has substance is still not a theory I’ve successfully figure out), and get Roe overturned.

At that point, the moral arguments against abortion can be had at the State (legislative) level, where such arguments not only belong, but are ultimately easier one, on a case-by-case basis.

M. Shawn Anderson:

Substantive due process used to confuse me as well, one of the reasons I went to law school. I believe I can explain it to you.

Procedural due process concerns the process (hearings, evidence rules, etc.) afforded to parties when the government decides something. Imagine that a law said after a trial following all of these procedures, we shall:(1)take a pencil and poke out the party’s eyes, (2) take a hammer and smash his toes, (3) and then burn him alive. You would probably think no amount of process would be sufficient to allow that kind of government activity to take place, that is the idea behind "substantive due process."

The functional use of the idea is to require the States to follow most of the Bill of Rights. If not for substantive due process then the States could execute cruel and unusual punishments.

Fung, I am sorry to have lectured you on prenatal development. I just never understand the idea that at some point in that development we magically become human. Given your burning building, I want to ask where were the 100 embryos? If I am presuming some fertility clinic and were I faced with the 12 year-old child, yes, that is who I would save, too.

To M. Shawn Anderson, yes, the legislative way and leaving it to the states would have been preferable. In Oregon, in 1971, abortion was legal in some cases, life of the mother being one, but other cases being as simple as the emotional and mental health of the mother. That required three doctors, one a psychiatrist, signing off on the procedure. I only saw two doctors.

A pregnancy IS a commitment, and I embrace every young woman I meet who has had her child and given it up for adoption as a fellow mother who loved her child. I know too many of those. Some of the luckier girls get married, sometimes even to the father of the child. Too many are abandoned, and I find that a true crime. human weakness, common fears, and desires is one thing. The new definition of male responsibility in this area is "Here’s some money. Take care of that."

I think that our having made abortion as easy and accessible as it is has devalued children and especially life in our society. Were there so many unwanted pregnancies before 1973 and Roe? Eugenics? OK, I understand it in economics terms, but there has to be more to us, as humans, than that. As a society, we have to have some ideal, and surely that ideal has to include a value for life, even when less than absolutely perfect.

I think that our having made abortion as easy and accessible as it is has devalued children and especially life in our society. Were there so many unwanted pregnancies before 1973 and Roe? Eugenics? OK, I understand it in economics terms, but there has to be more to us, as humans, than that. As a society, we have to have some ideal, and surely that ideal has to include a value for life, even when less than absolutely perfect.

I definitely agree with you on that score, Kate. Nonetheless, the portrait of Downs Syndrome on this thread is a bit pollyanna. Such children can be severely retarded, and huge numbers of them have related health problems such as congenital heart defects and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, we can point to happy outcomes, but there are just as many who live brief, painful, and miserable lives. I would not sentence anyone to such a life, regardless of what God wills.

dain, I knew you would agree.

My contacts with childhood illness are few. Some friends had a micro-cephalic son, who died at age seven,(peaceably, loved, and asleep at grandma’s house) somewhere within the hour of the birth of his younger brother. My daughter-in-law’s whole childhood was difficult, painful, full of surgeries and hospitals. Most of the kids she grew up with in hospital, her "neighbors," are dead. That her life was NOT brief is a perpetual wonder. So much of what I know about sick children, I know through her, and as I indicate above, she is all about people being alive, no matter what. Misery is a personal measure, and one I would take for another. You would not sentence to life, but would you sentence to death? I always wonder at who would choose for another, and have to live with it, after.

It is a hard issue -- I don’t think ’society’ has the right to sentence such children to life or death. I think it must be left to the parents, which was my point all along.

Granted that our law is not going to limit parental choice much here, I still insist that only if we regard abortion as basically wrong and not as a value-neutral way of dealing with even relatively minor genetic problems will women really have a choice. The problem now is that they’re increasingly pressured by MDs, insurance etc. to do the "responsible thing" by eradicating miserable burdens etc. Downs kids and their parents are going to have a tough future if we start to regard the choice for them as for a preventable evil. This was one heck of I thread and I don’t deny for a moment that every opinion expressed is genuine and thoughtful.

Several here have mentioned what a tough question it is whether or not to abort a child diagnosed in the womb as having Downs syndrome. But the fact is, if people in that situation really considered it such a difficult issue we’d expect to see an abortion rate of around 50 percent. But we don’t; the article Peter cited claims that it’s something like 80-90 percent. It seems to me that, far from being a tough question, it’s becoming a no-brainer, which raises an important point--what was a tough question in one generation becomes an easy one for the next. The slippery slope really does exist, and it’s probably more slippery than you think.

John, Thanks. You’ve made exactly the right point. Peter

Well, I’d like to see a survey of people who have aborted such children. We can blame it on hospitals, insurance companies, etc., but I suspect parents are more involved than you give them credit for. I am truly sorry that technologies and moralities change, but that’s a fact of life...and always has been. Instead of taking an absolutist stance on such issues (which won’t work at any rate), it’s better to us still-operative values to moderate the damage.

So, according to dain, life, in general, innocent or not, is fair game for death by any means, torture without restraint, and any other thing that we may deem as being rational or prudent even though it will harm it.

The world states that life is cheap, so we must accept it and follow the crowd.


Pregnant women who would not abort in any case refuse the procedure. Most know what it is for, that test, what the purpose is, and the abortion rate for Down’s Syndrome then is based on those who did not know the whys of the procedure and refuse after being faced with the findings, or those who will select for the more perfect child. There is no point in taking a needle in the belly if you would not choose to destroy the child based on the findings. I think that skews the statistic.

Why do I press this point? Because I know many mothers and know of - well I can actually think of only one and she very recent - who actually agreed to the procedure. For my third child, 23 years ago, I was not asked about this test. Five years later, my doctor told me it was required that he ask. It bothered me to be asked at all. In that time, in Christian circles, or the home-birth groups, or home school co-ops and networks, those full of families from those with one child to the largest family I know at 14 kids (all home births!), and representing all sorts of churches and denominations, the question does come up. Why? Because I have asked it. It is one hell of a conversation starter in that type of group. The consensus has been, why take the risk (and there is risk) when you would not kill your child, no matter what was found? So, I suggest to you, there is a demographic not included in the statistics, because they opt out.

If you suspect defects and would abort if flaws were found, you proceed. If search and destroy is not an option, you forgo the procedure.

Which is to say, Dale, that we can still avoid the crowd. There is nothing in what dain says that suggests that he would force any of us to make use of the technologies present, nor does he demand that we accept that morality.

I am reading Mark Steyn’s book, today, and HOPE he is right that those people I know who have had many children are not only reproducing themselves, but also their morality and politics. If there is any hope against his demographics of Islam, it would seem to be there.

So, according to dain, life, in general, innocent or not, is fair game for death by any means, torture without restraint, and any other thing that we may deem as being rational or prudent even though it will harm it.

When has life ever been fair, or perfectly rational, Dale? Nature has always been UTTERLY indifferent to individuals, and humans have tended to follow that pattern all too well. Regardless, you twist my words...your posts are emotive rather than thoughtful. I have never argued for indiscriminant abortion, but such decisions in cases of genetic malformation should be left up to the parents. Every species must attend to its genetic viability, and in fact every species does, including man. With fewer children being born and maternal ages rising, people have become "pickier" about their enormous investments in the next generation.

These are facts of life, Dale. I agree that it is important for humans to rise above the animal when it makes good sense to do so, but sometimes it doesn’t make good sense to do so. This is one of those times.

Kate, thank you for your moderation. Yours is a voice I always appreciate, even though we sometimes disagree.

The Steyn book is spooky, yes? Now if we could only get Professor Moser and all the other multicultural cheerleaders on NLT to read it, perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to mock "ethno-cultural viability." Our best chance of long, secure, and peaceful lives is the strength of our (extended) has always been thus. When beating down our "animal spirits" includes a failure to reproduce, we are doomed. It’s really that simple. That’s what I meant above by saying that occasionally Nature’s way was the right way.

dain, I appreciate the opportunity to disagree and would not abuse it.

The Steyn book is distressing. But I do not see, exactly, what anyone is going to be able to DO about the demographic problem. I am not halfway through, yet, but leafing ahead, I am not seeing any answer.

The book also suggests to me that if we are not careful to maintain our cultural morality, that loss of foundation, the loss of principle, makes us cultural push-overs. If we do not stand for anything, who cares if we stand?

Dain, none of us here are multiculturalists. We clearly believe in the superiority of Western culture and institutions. Where we differ is that I believe that these things are the product of the human mind, not the reproductive organs.

Yet multiculturalists share that with you...a belief that biology is pretty much irrelevant. Read Steyn’s book...perhaps it will modify your thinking. My point is essentially that biology and culture generally go together, and there isn’t a great deal of evidence that a people can abandon their own culture for someone elses. Even cases of almost complete acculturation (e.g., the ancient Gauls under the Romans) suggest that ethno-linguistic groups borrow some things but remain true to themselves in other very basic ways. Genetic? I don’t know, and neither do you. I’m open to the idea, whereas you reject it on faith (and/or political correctness).

I don’t know, and neither do you.

There are plenty of things we don’t know, and we don’t use unknowns as the basis for formulating our social policy (otherwise we’d have extensive regulation to prevent global warming).

Actually, not true at all, Professor Moser. We use "unknowns" all the time to formulate policy. Our defense strategies are always speculative, and our forward-looking policies on weapons development use likely (and not so likely) scenarios of future flash points. How often have we tinkered with the tax system not really knowing how it would affect the economy? Most of our social policies are run on ideology and faith rather than hard science.

In short, your point is a bit oblique, and not at all true.

And John, as we fade into the sunset on this thread, you really should note that genetics is a rapidly-changing science. There is no telling what they are going to find. It really is best to keep an open mind.

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