This is an interesting piece from the Washinton Post’s opinion section:
Palin’s Heroic Choice, Held Up as a Bad Example
Earlier this week, I did a column describing Trig Palin, Sarah Palin’s four-month-old son with Down syndrome, as an unlikely civil rights leader. The trend of genetic testing and eugenic abortions has made such children a small, almost unprotected minority in America (and elsewhere). I also argued that a Social Darwinian attitude toward children with Down syndrome — the belief that the “imperfect” are somehow unworthy of life — has broader implications for the treatment of the disabled in our country. People who escape the screen of genetic testing are often viewed as burdens and mistakes — making our society less welcoming and hospitable.
Most of the reaction I have received has been from the parents of children with disabilities, who are grateful for Gov. Palin’s example of love and compassion. But Los Angeles Times blogger Andrew Malcolm recently reported an entirely different reaction to Trig Palin’s breakthrough. Dr. Andre Lalonde, the executive vice president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, is “expressing concerns” that a “prominent public role model as the governor of Alaska and potential vice president of the United States completing a Down syndrome pregnancy may prompt other women to make the same decision against abortion because of that genetic abnormality. And thereby reduce the number of abortions.” This, Lalonde feels, would be problematic, because of women who aren’t “prepared to deal with the consequences” of a Down syndrome child.
Many parents, of course, are not “prepared to deal with the consequences” of having a child, healthy or disabled — though this has nothing to do with the worth of such children once they are conceived. Down syndrome children are slow to learn and have physical challenges. They are also, in my experience, often loving and compassionate — which is an advantage they have on Dr. Lalonde.
A claim like this one tears away the pretense of “choice” among some in the medical community. When the medical establishment encourages doctors to encourage broad genetic testing for genetic abnormalities, then emphasizes the hardship of raising a disabled child, eugenic abortion is not merely an “option” but a recommendation. And people such as Sarah Palin, who resist the consensus against the elimination of “genetic abnormality,” become a bad example, instead of a heroic one.
This difference clarifies the most basic question of medical ethics: How do we improve humanity? By eliminating the “imperfect” from among us? Or by showing our humanity, especially toward the “imperfect”?