Debate intensifies over Down syndrome abortions


Political commentators in the US have clashed over new state legislation that seeks to prohibit abortion on the grounds of Down Syndrome. In an op-ed in the Washington Post early last month, journalist Ruth Marcus argued that legislative moves to ban Down Syndrome abortion were “unenforceable, unconstitutional -- and wrong”. Marcus argued that the decision to terminate a pregnancy based on a Downs diagnosis should “be left to individual women, not to government officials who believe they know best”. She criticised North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana for passing legislation that prohibited abortion based solely on the grounds of Down Syndrome.

In a scathing response, conservative political pundit George F. Will wrote that the real “Down Syndrome problem” is the “ethical complacency” with which people around the world choose to abort trisomy-21 children. Will alerted readers to the near 100% abortion rate of Downs pregnancies in Iceland, describing this feat as a form of “genocide”.

Late last month, American journalism lecturer Tim J. McGuire entered the debate, arguing that, while abortion decisions should remain an individual choice, the decision to abort a Downs child was “just plain wrong”:

Everybody is different in some way, and everybody has a special contribution to make to the world. We enter dangerous ground when we decide some gifts are worth exalting and others are worth destroying.

Trinity International University academic Neil Skjoldal made a similar observation, writing in a blog post that “when we decide who to treat as people, we dehumanize all”.




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