I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me.
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity!
—Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
I have some questions for you.
Take a look in the mirror. Are you perfect? Were you perfect when you were born? Is there anything about you that someone else might consider a blemish, imperfection, or—God forbid—a “deformity”?
Do you consider your life any less worthy of living than others’ because of it? Are you of less value than other people because of it? If you give calm, sober reflection to the question, have the blessings of your life not been worth having to endure whatever imperfections you may have to suffer through? Are these questions you would rather someone else answered for you, without consulting you, and then have them choose whether you live or die based on the answers they gave on your behalf?
I didn’t think so.
Let’s flip the question just a little bit. Are you God? Do you have the moral qualifications—whatever those may be—to decide for someone else, without being able to ask them directly, whether their life is worth living? Are you strong enough to take it upon yourself to determine whether someone else is so blemished, so imperfect, so deformed that the potential blessings they might experience by living their life to its natural conclusion are not enough to make it worth enduring their imperfections, as you have identified them? Are you arrogant enough to claim the authority or even the ability to decide the relative value of one human being’s life versus another’s?
I see that over the weekend there were protests in Madrid over proposed reforms of Spain’s abortion laws. Specifically, the proposal from Spain’s new conservative government is to roll back a 2010 law that allows abortion up to the 22nd week in cases where the fetus shows serious deformities. Notably, the proposal apparently leaves intact the law’s grant of an absolute right to an abortion on demand up to the 14th week, or up to the 22nd week where the mother’s health is at risk. So let’s be very clear: this isn’t about a “right to choose” whether to be pregnant at all, because abortion at will through 14 weeks remains available. Nor is this a “women’s health” issue: abortions to protect the life or health of the mother also remain available. This is solely about the ability to obtain a late-term abortion of a baby that is “deformed.”
Hysterical “feminists” are screaming that the proposal is a “throwback to the Franco dictatorship.” Really? Protecting the defenseless against being killed because someone else has decided they have a prohibitive deformity is a throwback to Franco?
Yes, I see the parallel immediately.
In a somewhat related story, Swiss regulators have approved a new prenatal test for Down’s Syndrome. There is evidently high demand for the test in wealthier parts of Europe such as Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Despite manufacturers’ protests to the contrary, I can’t conceive of any real use for that information other than to inform a decision whether to abort the pregnancy. So like the issue in Spain, we’re making the life or death decision whether to have an abortion based on whether the baby exhibits a deformity or abnormality.
Why? Who do we think we are?
Let me start with Down’s Syndrome. I will not argue that Down’s babies are “normal” in our common understanding of the term. They have obvious mental deficiencies that permanently limit their capacity for certain growth, function, and achievement that is within the grasp of most of the population. They will never grow up to be doctors, or physicists, or great mathematicians.
Do their limitations mean that they cannot experience joy, or that they cannot love and be loved? No. Are they in constant inhumane pain and suffering because of their condition? No. Does the fact that they are unlikely to make any significant contribution to greater society, and in fact are likely to be a lifelong drain on resources make their life worth any less than anyone else’s? No—and be careful if you want to argue with me on this one, because you won’t like where you have to go if you’re going to be intellectually consistent. This is not Flowers For Algernon; the Down’s person has never known any other existence, and there is every indication that they are perfectly happy exactly as they are.
What about other deformities? It’s a little hard to discuss because of the inherent question: what’s a “deformity,” and who gets to make that decision? Are we talking about physical deformities, like a baby with no legs? How significant does it need to be—what if only one leg is missing? How about just a toe? What if it’s simply that the baby is—in someone’s subjective judgment—just coyote ugly?
What if she has dark hair and eyes, instead of blonde/blue?
Many of you don’t know this, but this was exactly Margaret Sanger’s purpose behind creating Planned Parenthood back in the early 1900s: she wanted to control the “breeding” of blacks “to stop the multiplication of the unfit” as the “greatest step towards race betterment.”
Bet you’re all warm and fuzzy about those abortions now, huh.
Let’s go a step further and ask whether the concept of a “deformity” for which we must allow unfettered abortions (lest we harken back to Generalissimo Franco) covers only physical issues, or whether it also extends to mental/emotional “aberrations.” Suppose we could test for non-Down’s related mental retardation—should we abort those babies? What if we could do a pre-natal identification of people with a propensity for addiction? What if we could identify homosexuals in the womb? Are those “deformities” for which abortion is acceptable?
The point is, there are any number of traits that someone could classify as a “deformity.” If that’s our benchmark for abortion, this is exceedingly dangerous territory. And it’s indefensible; once we leave it to someone’s subjective judgment as to who is “healthy enough” or “normal enough” to live and who isn’t, there’s no end to where it can lead. Whether a person has no legs, or they have Down’s syndrome, or whatever you happen to identify as their physical, mental, or emotional anomaly, the life they have is the one life they get—who are you to say it’s not worth it to them? Check out things like Special Olympics, or the Endeavor Games; life sure seems worth it to those people, doesn’t it? The fact that you might not want to live that way doesn’t mean they don’t.
And it doesn’t empower you to take that life away from them, however inconvenient it might be to you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today marks the one year anniversary of Chasing Jefferson. I never thought we’d get this far. I thought I might get a dozen or two posts over 6 months, and that’d be it. Today it’s 1 year, and 133 posts and counting. Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement.