The President of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA has posted an open letter condemning the defense of eugenics by Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus.
In her March op-ed in the Post, Ms. Marcus said that she would have terminated her pregnancies had the testing for each child come back positive for Down syndrome.
“I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted,” Marcus says in her op-ed, referring to children with Down syndrome, and because of that, she said she would have aborted them.
David G. Lejeune issued his open letter Wednesday—World Down Syndrome Day—in response to Ms. Marcus, insisting that like all human beings, children with Down syndrome have the right to live “even if you do not want them,” since their right to life does not depend on other people’s desires.
The Jerome Lejeune Foundation carries on the work of the late Dr. Jerome Lejeune, who discovered the cause of Down syndrome and fought for decades to protect persons with the syndrome, whom he called “my brothers.”
Ms. Marcus’ ideas are not only ill-conceived, Lejeune states, they are “dangerous,” because they rely on the reasoning of “the dark world of eugenics, where children are selectively eliminated because something about them is considered to be undesirable.”
Eugenics—controlled selective breeding of human populations to improve their genetic composition—“has a long history that goes hand-in-hand with racism, hatred, and disability discrimination,” Lejeune notes.
In fact, he contends, if eugenics is permitted in the case of children with Down syndrome, why not with blacks or Jews or girls, since it all depends on whether or not they are “wanted” by somebody else.
“As a feminist, how do you reconcile tacit support for the underlying principle of eugenics that has resulted in the death of so many female children?” he argues, citing the example of China’s coercive abortion laws that have resulted in so many sex-selective abortions that the population is now completely out of balance.
“Abortion for the sole reason of eliminating a particular child, one with Down syndrome, is no different that eliminating a child because she is female,” he declares.
“It’s simply modern eugenics, and it is wrong,” he writes.
If one reasons in this fashion, he continues, the slippery slope has no principled ending point, and there is no motive for denying the right to eliminate people based on other “undesirable” traits.
Lejeune also argues that contrary to Ms. Marcus’ assertions, the U.S. Supreme Court “has never recognized a right to abort an unborn child because of his or her genetic abnormality or disability.”
It is important to make the distinction between a pregnant woman who chooses to terminate the pregnancy because she doesn’t want to be pregnant, he notes, “versus a pregnant woman who wanted to be pregnant, but rejects a particular fetus.”
Lejeune also takes issue with Ms. Marcus’ particular style of moral reasoning, especially the idea that if many people do something must make it right.
The fact that numerous people make the same immoral choice does not justify it, he writes, countering Marcus’ claim that she is “in good company” in believing that babies with Down syndrome should be aborted.
Moreover, prenatal testing does not exist for the purpose of deciding which babies should be killed, he argues.
“The purpose of prenatal testing is not to decide whether to kill a baby,” Lejeune declares, but “to gain information and knowledge, so that you can develop wisdom in learning how to care for the child that will join your family.”
Prenatal testing helps parents understand whether there are any health conditions present that could cause health problems as the child matures, which can prepare parents to understand how such conditions may affect the baby’s physical and mental development, he states.
Recently, Obama-appointed judges have struck down several state laws that banned selective abortions targeting babies with Down syndrome, defending the Planned Parenthood position that women have an absolute right to an abortion for any reason whatsoever—even for motives of race, sex, or particular genetic traits.
A local Planned Parenthood group recently acknowledged the “racist roots” and eugenics of founder Margaret Sanger, noting that she “had beliefs, practices, and associations with eugenics that we acknowledge and denounce, and work to rectify today.”
Ms. Marcus has apparently not reached that stage of personal illumination. It’s a good thing that groups like the Jerome Lejeune Foundation continue to summon us to be touched—as individuals and as a nation—by the better angels of our nature.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome