Lamenting Those Who Lament Down Syndrome



You don’t have to be an anti-natalist, much less some kind of nihilist, to defend the decision on the part of a majority of would-be mothers to abort fetuses showing signs of Down syndrome. But over at The Week, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry sheds tears over the “ghosts” of Down syndrome babies who never were:

I do not know a single family with a child with trisomy 21 who has not regarded them as a joy, much less regretted their existence. The expression “ray of sunshine” has become such a cliché, but here it is perfectly applicable. It’s always striking how joyous many people with trisomy 21, especially children, appear.

Regardless of how one feels about abortion policy, this is a treachery of unspeakable magnitude that shames our entire society. We go about in the world surrounded by the ghosts we have made, and we do not even have the good taste to be haunted.

If there is a God, we had better all pray that He is merciful.

Whew, powerful words.

Gobry acknowledges the generally observed intellectual disability that comes with DS, though he omits any mention of the increased risk of early dementia and even leukemia, among other ills. In fact here’s what the Alzheimer’s Association has to say about it:

Studies suggest that more than 75 percent of those with Down syndrome aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease, nearly 6 times the percentage of people in this age group who do not have Down syndrome.

One is struck – or at least I am – by Gobry’s seeming embrace of individuals with DS due to their childlike qualities, to the detriment of a perspective taking into account the complete life cycle. And linking the discussion to abortion only strengthens the focus on DS’ early years.

Gobry observes that on average, a person with DS “will have the intelligence of a normal 8 or 9 year old child.” Ah, but of course those are great years for parents, it’s no small thing to point out, sandwiched as they are between the chaotic toddler and rebellious teen phases. I suspect there’s more than a bit of warm, glowing self-interest smuggled into Gobry’s argument.

DS last popped up in the news in mid-2014, when Richard Dawkins was being lambasted for suggesting would-be mothers of fetuses with DS “abort it and try again.” Blunt language to be sure, but as The American Interest’s Walter Mead (I think, there’s no byline) said at the time, most people would seem to agree. At least if we’re judging them by their actual behavior and not what they’d be brave enough to admit to in mixed company:

One of the main reasons why people abort them is the same reason why people support physician assisted suicide and other “mercy killings”—because, the argument goes, one ought to spare someone from living a low quality of life.


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13 Responses to Lamenting Those Who Lament Down Syndrome

  1. Narr says:

    Over the next few years I predict a major upsurge in the questioning and second-guessing of prospective parents as to why they choose to abort.

    I look forward to asking liberals and lefties–many of whom will not like it that people may choose to abort on the basis of gender, or serious health concerns–“Just what part of a Woman’s Right To Choose don’t you understand?”


  2. Dain says:

    I suspect a Woman’s Right to Choose was never exactly predicated on libertarian grounds for the bulk of the left. It’s contingent on not somehow interfering with the rights of some other oppressed group. Abortion can’t be allowed to “punch down.”

  3. Narr says:

    I suspect you are correct; it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I’m sure libs/lefties would be happy to stipulate that medical- or gender-selective abortion is A-OK as long as it’s white males being aborted.

    Personally, I think some abortions should be retroactive.


  4. Florida resident says:

    I put aside moral problems, since it was related to pretty close relative.
    My question is: who is going to pay for very special education and various disability benefits?
    And it is not only money, but attention of teachers in school. Somebody explained to me that some teachers prefer to teach to “mini-class” consisting of 2 to 3 “disabled students” instead of teaching to class of 25 “regular” students. If there is no progress of disable students, then no test will result in punishment of their teacher, as opposed to a teacher of a “regular” class.
    Are the potential parents of a future child with Down Syndrome ready to pay for all those extras themselves? I strongly suspect that instead they will become activists promoting more public funds for disabled.

  5. CJColucci says:

    I look forward to asking liberals and lefties–many of whom will not like it that people may choose to abort on the basis of gender, or serious health concerns–“Just what part of a Woman’s Right To Choose don’t you understand?”

    They don’t have to like it. Many “liberals and lefties” have views on when an abortion is the right choice, but they don’t try to enact them into law. Doesn’t mean they can’t express their views.

  6. Narr says:

    CJC: Of course it doesn’t mean they can’t express their views. I only doubt they’ll be able to express them coherently and with logical consistency when faced with the reality that many parents will choose abortion on grounds that might not satisfy liberal and lefty criteria.


  7. CJColucci says:

    Why should they have to? Just about everybody who is pro-choice has a private list of “acceptable” reasons for abortions and is perfectly well aware that other people’s lists are different. That someone might be having an abortion for a reason I don’t think sufficient — whether my list of sufficient reasons is consistent and logical or not — is a predictable consequence of a pro-choice system — a feature, not a bug.

  8. Narr says:

    CJC: Yes, most pro-choice people are illogical and inconsistent when it comes to abortion. Point taken.
    I remain eager to expose their illogic and inconsistency when given the chance.


  9. CJColucci says:

    Eager, yes; capable, no. If there is some kind of deep illogic or inconsistency in favoring a pro-choice regime while not actually approving every choice people make, you have yet to “expose” it.

  10. Narr says:

    True, I haven’t exposed any of that here–but nor did I intend to.

    You are welcome to the last word on the matter.


  11. cynthia curran says:

    I’m not anti-choice and if the parent wants to do it fine but many people with Downs can do a lot of low skilled jobs that we now have immigrants so and I’m not opposed to them having SSi. The group home which I thought was a good idea to help moderate to mild retardation is being phase out. It helped when they became adults and their parents were aging. I diagnosed as mildly retarded as a child, so I have more sympathy it turns out that I have Add and Aspegers which causes me to do lower on non-verbal of parts of IQ tests but normal on verbal parts. Personality, I think the religious right does more damaged about Latinos and blacks not being able to have abortions, why the mentally retarded on only 2 percent of the population while Latinos and Blacks who tend to be poorer on average than whites are a much larger part of the population. Latinos and Blacks should be allow to have abortions just as much as whites in may helped them escape poverty and be less on welfare but too many religious conservatives think all abortion is a sin. For example, Texas has a lot of young poor Latinos because conservative religious Republicans are opposed to them getting state funded birth control and Texas has a higher number of kids on the free and reduce lunch programs. One reason is Latinos in Texas have kids before 18 at 52 per 1,000 while white kids there have them only at 18 per 1,000 18 and below. This causes more poverty having kids young in a poor family.

  12. cynthia curran says:

    A different subject where you closed the comments is Silcon Valley. I don’t think they are the bad guys as many on the right make out. The reason why they are targeted is someone like Elon Musc may helped to make electric cars more possible or his hyerloop possbile. If Hyerploop travel is possible you could worked in LA which is expensive placed to lived but rent an apartment in Needles California. They are already working on developing the hyerloop. Lots of right wing groups and some libertarian ones get lots of money from the Koch brothers that are heavily into oil if electric cars could become cheaper or the hyerloop worked them oil is not as profitable.

  13. The Z Blog says:

    The abortion movement grew out of the eugenics movement. When you know who made eugenics radioactive, the movement shifted gears and changed their marketing. The lesson learned by progressives from the war is you need a legitimizing morality to sway public opinion in a mass media democracy.

    Pitching eugenics as a way to cull the morons from the human family is never going to sell very well to half the country. Pitching it as “choice” or “reproductive freedom” or “women’s liberation” has a nice ring and who can be against those things?

    The thing to always keep in mind with the Progressives is “should” becomes “must” and often quickly. You should abort the defective child will quickly become you must abort the male child or the left handed child or whoever does not fit their spreadsheet at the time.

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