This week, the Supreme Court allowed the Texas Heartbeat Act to stand after abortion advocates filed an emergency appeal to try to block it. Under the Texas Heartbeat Act, abortion is restricted after a heartbeat can be detected (at about six weeks gestation), and private citizens can sue abortionists and others aiding and abetting an abortion, except for the child’s mother. The ruling has caused panic among abortion advocates, including one Newsweek reporter who lamented the possibility of more children with Down syndrome being born.
Richard Hanania, in addition to writing for Newsweek, is the president of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology (CSPI) and a research fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. In reaction to the limiting of abortion in Texas, Hanania warned about the possibility of an increase in births of people with Down syndrome and other disabilities — because they will no longer be aborted, thanks to laws like the Texas Heartbeat Act.
You can’t screen for Down syndrome before about 10 weeks, and something like 80% of Down syndrome fetuses are aborted. If red states ban abortion, we could see a world where they have five times as many children with Down syndrome, and similar numbers for other disabilities.
— Richard Hanania (@RichardHanania) September 2, 2021
“You can’t screen for Down syndrome before about 10 weeks, and something like 80% of Down syndrome fetuses are aborted. If red states ban abortion, we could see a world where they have five times as many children with Down syndrome, and similar numbers for other disabilities,” he wrote. In follow-up tweets, he added, “Could be outliers in the whole developed world. There are already negative stereotypes of Americans in these states, one can imagine it getting much more extreme. What if they also ban genetic engineering and embryo selection [eugenic reproductive technologies], while other places go ahead?”
He concluded by pondering how people on different sides of the political aisle would look at government spending, asking of conservatives, “Will they maintain their belief in a small safety net and lower government spending in such a world? Would liberals change their minds about government spending if it ends up going to states that have much higher costs due to these laws? Many interesting things to think about.”
Hanania went on to insinuate that pro-life Americans are hypocrites, writing, “About half of Americans call themselves pro-life, but close to 80% choose to terminate a pregnancy after a Down syndrome diagnosis. When it comes to their own lives, most don’t want to live by the rules they’d force on others.”
Will they maintain their belief in a small safety net and lower government spending in such a world? Would liberals change their minds about government spending if it ends up going to states that have much higher costs due to these laws? Many interesting things to think about.
— Richard Hanania (@RichardHanania) September 2, 2021
Readers quickly reacted with outrage, so Hanania attempted to walk back his claims, arguing that he never said it was bad to have more children with Down syndrome in society — but not everyone was buying it.
“You literally suggested that people’s already negative perception of red states would worsen if they stopped killing disabled babies in the womb,” Rachel Bovard, policy director for the Conservative Partnership Institute, tweeted. But for Hanania, this was simply an “objective observation” which merely meant, to him, that pro-life activists were being “triggered” due to nothing more than their own hypocrisy.
Despite Hanania’s claim that nearly 80% of Americans have an abortion following a Down syndrome diagnosis — which he believes includes pro-lifers — the real rate in the United States is estimated to be approximately 67%. While that number is high, and no child should be targeted for death simply because they have a disability, it’s still lower than Hanania’s estimate. Many parents do choose life for their babies after a diagnosis of Down syndrome, despite heavy pressure from doctors to abort.
Where Hanania gets it right, though, is the difference between the United States and the rest of the world. The United States isn’t going to be an outlier; it already is. Abortion rates for children with Down syndrome around the world are, heartbreakingly, much higher than they are in the United States.
In Europe, the abortion rate is so high that the birth rate for children with Down syndrome has fallen by 54%, according to a recent study. In southern Europe (countries including Spain, Italy, Greece, and Monaco), the decrease in births was 71%, while northern Europe (home to countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) was at 51%. In Eastern Europe (countries including Russia, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary), the birth rate for babies with Down syndrome decreased by 38%.
Iceland recently boasted of having a 100% abortion rate for preborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, while nearly every abortion in Poland is due to disability. Just 18 babies with Down syndrome were born in Denmark in 2019, while the Netherlands tells women they have a “moral duty” to have an abortion if their child has Down syndrome. In countries like New Zealand, people with Down syndrome are denied residency requests due to their disability, and there has been a massive increase in eugenic abortions. In the United Kingdom, it’s been estimated that 91% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted after a diagnosis. Meanwhile, the Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) will only give parents resources and support if they choose to have an abortion after a prenatal diagnosis. Australian media gushed over prenatal testing that they said could “effectively end” Down syndrome.
Hanania clearly saw the United States as being an outlier compared to the rest of the world if children with Down syndrome had a healthy birth rate, as opposed to being destroyed through eugenic abortion. But considering how the rest of the world treats people with Down syndrome, being an outlier should clearly be a badge of honor. America should be proud to cease being a nation that kills preborn children with disabilities.
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