Doctor Says Aborting Babies With Down Syndrome is Done “Out of Love and Compassion”

Opinion   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 4, 2016   |   2:00PM   |   Washington, DC

Disability rights advocates have made great strides in recent years to educate society about the value of people’s lives, no matter what their abilities. But abortion activists are thwarting this progress by fighting against laws that protect disabled babies from discrimination in the womb.

This week, several major news outlets published a particularly insulting column about people with disabilities. The author, Katherine McHugh, an OBGYN from Indianapolis, called caring for disabled children “horror” and argued that their mothers should be able to abort them, no matter how minor their “abnormality.”

katherinemchughMcHugh (pictured right) blasted Indiana state lawmakers for passing a series of pro-life measures in March. The new law bans abortion doctors from knowingly aborting an unborn baby solely because of a genetic disability such as Down syndrome, the unborn baby’s race or sex. The bill also has several other abortion-related measures, including a requirement that aborted or miscarried babies’ bodies be cremated or buried and another requirement that abortionists who have hospital admitting privileges renew them annually.

McHugh wrote:

Supporters of the new law, such as [Gov. Mike] Pence, say the measure “affirms the value of all human life.” And yes, some women do choose to carry abnormal pregnancies to term. I am honored to care for them and their babies. I have held and comforted babies as they died, because their mothers were too grief-stricken to bear it. I have cried with families as we watched their babies breathe their last breath.

Not every woman can handle such horror. In the United States, abortion is an ethical, safe, appropriate and – with the exception of North Dakota and Indiana – legal medical option in the case of severe anomalies, one that spares women the emotional pain of stillbirth or the loss of an infant. That loss is dismissed and diminished by this law and by those who support it; the law doesn’t save babies, it just forces a horrific fate onto both mother and child. It includes an exception only for termination of babies who would die within three months of being born, as if three months is enough time to justify forcing all women to take on the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering a baby, only to watch it die.

Later, she added:

Preventing women with these fetal diagnoses from choosing abortion forces them to watch their children die a slow, painful, premature death. My colleagues and I are already asking one another whether we should even offer prenatal screening now that there’s no legal choice to end a pregnancy because of the results.

In other words, McHugh believes the woman should have the choice to intentionally kill her baby in a brutal, painful late-term abortion. But allowing the child to die naturally with comfort care from doctors, not to mention giving the woman a chance to spend time with her baby during its short life, is “a horrific fate.”

After going through a list of genetic disorders that cause serious health problems and short life expectancies, McHugh argued that any “abnormality,” no matter how minor, is a good reason for a woman to abort her unborn child:

Not all prenatally diagnosed disabilities are fatal, of course. Scientific advances can detect abnormalities with increasing accuracy, allowing families to decide whether having a child with a disability is right for them. Again, what is important is that they have the right to choose. That choice is not the radical outlier Indiana’s new law might suggest: Research suggests that women terminate between 60 and 90 percent of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome. These decisions are made out of love and compassion, a seemingly obvious concept but one that bears emphasizing.

Because of arguments like McHugh’s, bioethicist Wesley Smith predicts that parents will someday discard unborn children deemed of lesser genetic value, not just because of disabilities, but also because of cosmetic traits, behaviors and other factors.

He points out:

The quest for perfection in procreation is ultimately self-destructive. Think of the kind of people who might not have been born if subjected as embryos to such a quality control inspection:

  • Abraham Lincoln, tall, homely, perhaps with a genetic disease.
  • Mother Theresa, diminutive, obsessive about religion.
  • Vincent Van Gogh, clearly suffering from depressive disease.
  • Woodie Guthrie, Huntington’s disease.
  • Ludwig von Beethoven, early-onset deafness.

The people who will never be famous who have inspired us all struggling against congenitally-caused difficulties.

McHugh’s column should raise a lot of questions in people’s minds: Why is birth the dividing line for termination? What if the woman doesn’t find out about her child’s “abnormality” until after the child is born? Should she be able to terminate her child’s life then? What if the woman thinks she will be able to handle the child’s disability and gives birth, only to later discover that she can’t handle it? Should termination be an option then, too?

In essence, McHugh is saying that if a disabled person makes life difficult for their family, it should be legal to kill them. If a human being is abnormal in any way, they are less valuable, and their mother should be allowed to decide if their life really is worth living.