Ross Douthat, a columnist for The New York Times, had a tremendous article last week on the new genetic testing that is becoming available and its impact on unborn children with disabilities. In that article, Eugenics, Past and Future, he rightly makes the connection between our eugenic history in the United States and Europe and a potential future that seeks to eradicate even more little human beings. He brought it to a powerful conclusion (emphasis in bold is mine):
Having left behind pseudoscientific racial theories, it’s easy for us to look back and pass judgment on yesterday’s eugenicists. It’s harder to acknowledge what we have in common with them.
First, a relentless desire for mastery and control, not only over our own lives but over the very marrow and sinew of generations yet unborn. And second, a belief in our own fundamental goodness, no matter to what ends our mastery is turned.
For those of us who, by God’s grace, know we are sinful and evil and need Jesus to be our righteousness, we have no illusions about our own fundamental goodness and have seen at least a glimpse of where our own depravity typically leads. Mr. Douthat is right to warn us against this flaw in our thinking that somehow we are good. We only need to look around – that flawed thought stands in contrast to almost every shred of evidence around us.
But I disagreed with the basis of one of his questions:
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?
It is true that in the United States, and later in Nazi Germany, that governments were making the decision about the value of ‘unworthy’ human life. Across the United States, state legislatures were passing laws, implementing programs and executing judgment using the power granted to them. Eventually the Supreme Court weighed in and determined such laws were constitutional. And we know what happened in Nazi Germany.
From that sense, abortion is not commanded by our government and decisions are left up to the mother of the unborn child.
But does the lack of governmental coercion mean these are truly free choices? The stories of women who received pressure to abort – from doctors, from family members, from the father of the child – are endless. The ominous predictions about what life will be like living with disability in the family also feel endless, and frequently have little basis in reality. Increasingly, the argument that it is ‘selfish’ to bring a child into the world with a disability is being raised.
And the most alarming statistics of all: rates of abortion that approach or exceed 90% for certain types of disabling conditions. If that isn’t a demonstration of where our culture is on this issue, then what evidence do we need to provide?
Whether an individual choice or forced by the government, currently the result is the same for most babies identified in the womb with a disabling condition like Down syndrome or spina bifida. From that perspective, we are no different from earlier eras that promoted eugenics through official governmental policy.
I’m grateful Mr. Douthat wrote an article that rightly used our evil history to lay out a potential future. Let’s take it all the way and make sure people realize that there is a war against babies with disabilities in this country and there is no neutral ground on this issue.
Finally, we have nothing to fear from the science behind those tests, because they can also be used for a great deal of good. But in this culture until everyone understands the inherent dignity and value of unborn babies, those tests will be used to find and destroy children who would otherwise be born.
And given the selfishness of our own hearts, there is only one real answer that will protect babies: freedom from sin and the certainty of a glorious, joy-filled future with God, found only through Jesus Christ.