Even some pro-choicers are concerned about the eugenic implications of a new prenatal screening test that promises to increase the chance of detecting unborn babies with Down syndrome.
Tim Stanley, a columnist and historian with The London Telegraph, recently wrote a column warning that the new test could lead to the “extinction” of people with Down syndrome “at the hands of science, fear and ignorance.”
Stanley appears to be pro-choice by his writing. He called abortion a “woman’s right,” and said he was not arguing for a ban on abortion of babies with Down syndrome. Still, his column indicated that he fears the consequences of unchecked and discriminatory abortion.
“Unfortunately, society goes through peaks and troughs of sympathy towards the disabled – and we risk entering a dark age,” Stanely wrote.
Pro-lifers have long been warning that these tests could lead to even more abortions of babies with Down syndrome – and the number already is very high. Researchers estimate that approximately 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in England.
The heightened concern comes after the British National Screening Committee recently began promoting the new non-invasive prenatal blood test (NIPT) as a safer alternative to invasive screening procedures such as amniocentesis, which invade the womb and can threaten the unborn child’s life. Doctors say the NIPT also is cheaper than amniocentesis.
The BBC reports that the test works by analyzing fragments of the unborn baby’s DNA in the mother’s blood. Women can be given the test when they are 11 to 14 weeks pregnant.
We seem increasingly obsessed with making life as perfect as possible – as if we could control its beginning, middle and end. Advances in genetics hold out the possibility of creating designer babies with no birth defects at all. Euthanasia gives the option of finishing things early when existence gets too much to bear. And implicit in all of this is the view that life isn’t truly valuable unless it is healthy, pain free and contributing to Gross National Product. The sick and the old are a burden. The most helpful thing they could do is go away.
Excuse the cliché, but it’s hard not to see of all this happening and think of the 1930s – when the Western world became hooked on the idea that it could create a cleaner, happier population with the application of medical cruelty. This was barbarism disguised as reason.
The true moral test of a society is not how pretty, sober or well organized it is – but how it treats its most vulnerable, even its most difficult, citizens. And the true sign of grace in a man is his ability to look at something that is supposedly ugly, or just different from himself, and see beauty.
Health authorities believe the new test will save the lives of babies who otherwise could have died as a result of amniocentesis, but Stanley echoed many pro-lifers’ concerns that the new test could lead to more unborn babies’ deaths by abortion.
His column continued:
But what do most women do when their baby tests positive for Down’s? They abort. Around 90 per cent of pregnancies that involve the condition end in a termination. In 2014, 693 abortions were carried out for this reason – a jump of 34 per cent since 2011. The rise is blamed on increased access to blood tests via private clinics. American campaigners warn of the risk of “extinction”. In Denmark, the head of a midwife association blandly told a newspaper: “When you can discover almost all the foetuses with Down Syndrome, then we are approaching a situation in which almost all of them will be aborted.”
Organizers with the British pro-life group LIFE also believe the new test threatens more lives than it will save.
It is estimated that the NIPT screening, also known as known as cfDNA testing, will prevent 25 miscarriages a year that are associated with more invasive amniocentesis tests, according to the pro-life group.
“The RAPID study projects that 102 more children with Down’s Syndrome will be detected and therefore we can expect an additional 92 abortions of babies with Down’s Syndrome every single year,” LIFE’s Director of Education Anne Scanlan told LifeNews. “Based on current figures, this will see a 13% reduction of live births of children with Down’s Syndrome annually.”
“The message being sent by the NSC is that the lives of 25 ‘healthy’ babies are worth more than the lives of 92 babies with Down’s Syndrome,” Scanlan added.