“This is about ethics, not science”

So argues Wesley J. Smith in response to a new, non-invasive fetal genome test:

The news that scientists can test a fetus’s genome through non-invasive means presents a crucial challenge to the moral integrity of society. Will these tests be used by parents and doctors to help prepare the family for a potentially special-needs child? Or instead, will this science accelerate the ongoing search and destroy mission to eugenically cleanse our progeny? In other words, will the fictional world of Gattacanow become fact?

Alas, based on current trends, it would seem so. We increasingly feel entitled not only to have a baby, but to have a baby of the kind and nature we want. Already, 90 percent of babies whose prenatal tests show that they will be born with genetic conditions such as dwarfism and Down syndrome, are prevented from being born. Pressure on expecting parents to abort the “defectives” was so clearly demonstrated that the late Senator Ted Kennedy and former Senator (now Kansas Governor) Sam Brownback co-sponsored the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act, requiring that genetic counselors be neutral with regard to the options of birth or abortion. IVF embryos are already being genetically screened before implantation, with unwanted nascent lives thrown out as medical waste — including those with a detected propensity to adult onset diseases. There is even advocacy published in prominent bioethics journals arguing on behalf of “post-birth abortion,” that is, permitted infanticide if the baby that is born does not suit the needs and desires of the parents. And let us not forget that sex-selective IVF and abortion already happen — the latter of which the president of the United States wishes to remain legal.
This particular well could have no bottom. Imagine if scientists discover a genetic component to homosexuality. At least some of our gay brothers and sisters would not be allowed to live. Not only that, but the screening could easily include testing for what are essentially cosmetic issues. Already we have seen IVF advertised as a means of determining hair and eye color.

TeachingmyTwo and I discussed this very scenario last week. If a genetic trait for homosexuality were discovered, can’t you see laws protecting the elimination of gays? It’s not illegal to abort a girl, because that’s choice, but it would be to abort a gay male, because that would be … discrimination. More:

Many neo-eugenicists assure us that these decisions will all be laissez faire, that is, based solely on “choice.” But that is a fantasy. There are already calls among the Medical intelligentsia to offer prenatal genetic testing to all expecting mothers, not just those who are “at risk,” with the clear intention that the eugenic abortion rate increase. One could easily envisage laws that restrict coverage for children with serious prenatal detectable health conditions. And the raw power of peer pressure could make it very difficult to permit genetically determined babies from being born with serious illnesses or disabilities.

The march of science cannot be stopped, we are told. But this is about ethics, not science. What we do with our technological prowess is what matters. The answer to the evil potentials of the coming genomic screening is to strengthen our commitment to human life and deepen our capacity to love.

Smith always has his finger on the pulse of the ethics of science, good bad and ugly. Ross Douthat at the NYT gave it a go this weekend as well:

 But given our society’s track record with prenatal testing for Down syndrome, we also have a pretty good idea of what individuals and couples will do with comprehensive information about their unborn child’s potential prospects. In 90 percent of cases, a positive test for Down syndrome leads to an abortion. It is hard to imagine that more expansive knowledge won’t lead to similar forms of prenatal selection on an ever-more-significant scale.

Is this sort of “liberal eugenics,” in which the agents of reproductive selection are parents rather than the state, entirely different from the eugenics of Fisher’s era, which forced sterilization on unwilling men and women? Like so many of our debates about reproductive ethics, that question hinges on what one thinks about the moral status of the fetus.

From a rigorously pro-choice perspective, the in utero phase is a space in human development where disease and disability can be eradicated, and our impulse toward perfection given ever-freer rein, without necessarily doing any violence to human dignity and human rights.

Disease and disability can be eradicated. Who, though, defines “disease and disability”? If 90% of Down Syndrome babies are discarded as waste with no afterthought, what will happen when gay, those with the genetic marker for addiction, depression or Alzheimer’s join them in the trash heap? Will there be no end? Will parents be able to choose not to have that transgendered kid or the one with supposed gender identity disorder? What about one too dark? Too fat? Too tall?

This will test those who champion “choice” above all else.

H/t: HA headlines

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: