U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) candidate Geoffrey Clarke recently sparked outrage by calling for the forced abortions of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome, spina bifida, or any “similar syndrome which, if it is born, will render the child a burden on the state as well as on the family.” UKIP suspended him, and Clarke apologized, saying that he expressed his views poorly and does not believe in compulsory abortion. Whether he does or doesn’t, there are plenty of people worldwide who do believe that children with disabilities should be eliminated before birth.
In fact, eugenics in America is nothing new. It’s long been thought by many people from Margaret Sanger to Theodore Roosevelt that certain people are a burden on society. Over history, target groups have included the poor, African-Americans, and people with disabilities. In the past, the solutions offered were birth control and forced sterilization. Over time, abortion has become a go-to solution for weeding out the supposed undesirables.
Children with disabilities – or, as Clarke referred to them, “malformed” people – are often considered unworthy of life. For example, in 1967, the American Medical Association endorsed the abortions of any unborn humans who “may be born with incapacitate physical deformities or mental deficiency.” This use of abortion was made legal in a number of states prior to Roe v. Wade.
But no matter how socially acceptable this sort of negative eugenics may become, it is dangerous to society and individuals for many reasons.
Violations of Human Rights
Right to a Family: Forcing or even pushing parents to kill their own child because that child is different is a violation of the parents’ right to a family and right to reproduce. These rights are very different, but they are obviously connected. By denying those parents their child, the government wouldn’t just be denying those parents the right to procreate no matter who their child may be, but they would be denying the parents the right to love their child and the right to be loved by that child.
Right to Life: Of course, forced abortions of children with disabilities also denies those humans the right to life. It is not at all different from China’s one-child policy, which forces sterilization and abortion upon women even into the ninth month of pregnancy. In China and India, girls are aborted just for being girls. In America, people with Down syndrome are aborted just for having Down syndrome. Both are violations of rights; both are unacceptable. There is no difference.
In a country where compulsory abortions are legal based on genetic factors and characteristics, who would decide which of these characteristics are ideal and acceptable for life? Is this something a society can regulate? Can a government truly distinguish among the variety of genetic conditions diagnosed before birth, from Down syndrome to sickle cell anemia, from cerebral palsy to cystic fibrosis, and decide which ones require abortion? What if there were prenatal tests for sexual orientation, future obesity, or future cancer? Could the government then regulate which of these people are allowed to be born? There isn’t a line that can be drawn between one genetic trait and another declaring which is worthy of life. It is an undeniable act of discrimination on the part of the government.
Loss of Equality
Abortion based on genetic characteristics is the same as murder based on genetic characteristics. (Think Hitler.) The forced abortions of children with disabilities would divide society into classes – groups of people worthy of life, and groups unworthy. When we support the abortion of people with Down syndrome, we are stating that those walking among us with Down syndrome are less human than we are, that they are unfit to live. This will lead to acts of discrimination and violence against everyone with Down syndrome because they will not be seen as equal.
The same will happen to those who are deaf, blind, paralyzed, or ill with any disease. Forced abortions of children with disabilities will undo all of the work done by disability advocates and send the message that different is wrong. For a country that has spent years promoting and celebrating diversity while extending helping hands to disadvantaged people around the globe, this would be a huge step backwards.
Downfall of Society
The United States government already supports abortion wholeheartedly, as abortion is legal at any stage for any reason. Advances in technology to test for genetic conditions and characteristics before birth have led to support of the termination of people with disabilities by many government officials. This has already led to uproar in the disabled communities, as they have fought long and hard to be viewed as equal. And eugenic abortion advised for use on one group of people, while other groups are marked as preferred, means that the government believes in the elimination of certain people to create a better race, just as Hitler did. This will mark the beginning of social eugenics in America, which will spread from the womb to the cradle and beyond. And no one will be immune to it. This practice of social eugenics will bring on cultural unrest, acts of discrimination, hate crimes, and social divides against people viewed as different not seen since the civil rights movements of African-Americans and women.
In addition, forced abortions will lead to totalitarianism, in which the government has complete power over the lives of the people. Most of us will turn a blind eye, believing that forced abortions will never exist here in the land of the free. But they can, as doctors persuade parents to abort babies with disabilities and judges consider forced abortion orders. Aborting the weakest among us, babies with genetic conditions, leads our country nowhere but down.