A simple new blood test that greatly facilitates the detection of Down Syndrome in unborn children may spell the “extinction” of Down Syndrome people, an article in the Telegraph suggests, since around 90 per cent of those performing the test end up aborting their babies.
In the article, writer Tim Stanley notes that the selective abortion of Down babies jumped by 34 per cent between 2011 and 2014, due to “increased access to blood tests via private clinics,” and the simplification of the detection procedure will only increase the phenomenon.
Stanley cites the head of a midwife association in Denmark, who declared: “When you can discover almost all the foetuses with Down Syndrome, then we are approaching a situation in which almost all of them will be aborted.”
The author states that the high percentage of Down babies aborted stems partly from a number of enduring myths related to Down Syndrome that frighten parents into aborting their children. Many still believe that Down Syndrome is an embarrassing disease reflecting a problem with the parents, or that Down persons still die very young as they used to in ages past, Stanley says.
Though not making a case for banning abortion in instances of diagnosis, Stanley recommends more accurate and comprehensive information for parents whose babies have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
According to Stanley, society’s attitude toward Down children reflects an obsession “with making life as perfect as possible.” Where advances in genetics “hold out the possibility of creating designer babies with no birth defects at all,” mothers may wonder why they should carry to term a baby who will have disabilities that will present special challenges to parents.
Yet some will surely disagree, as a number of readers’ comments show. As one comment reads, the advance of science “means the human race can avoid the abnormalities and concentrate on people as nature intended. Of course there are always some that will say that all life is sacred, but that is just so much bull.”
Eugenics may seem like the easier course, Stanley recognizes, but then again, the easiest course doesn’t necessarily make for a happy or fulfilling life.
“The true moral test of a society,” says Stanley, “is not how pretty, sober or well organised it is – but how it treats its most vulnerable, even its most difficult, citizens.”
“And the true sign of grace in a man is his ability to look at something that is supposedly ugly, or just different from himself, and see beauty,” he writes.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome