By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, DEC. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Abortion advocates have long argued for a woman’s right to control her body and to be able to dispose of the unborn child if she wishes. In a bizarre decision, a Belgian court has extended that reasoning to say that a child has a right to be aborted.
A Belgian journal, “Revue Générale des Assurances et Responsabilités,” has just published the decision handed down by the Brussels Court of Appeal on Sept. 21 regarding the case of a child born disabled after an erroneous prenatal diagnosis, according to the Gènéthique press review for Nov. 29-Dec. 3.
The court ruled that the child’s parents could claim damages from the doctors who failed to detect the disability. They said that by making therapeutic abortion legal, the legislators intended to allow women to avoid giving birth to seriously handicapped children, “having regard not only to the interests of the mother, but also to those of the unborn child itself.”
Thus, the judges considered that the child would have had the “right” to an abortion if his disability had been correctly diagnosed.
The report on the decision did not explain how the court could consider an unborn child to be able to be the subject of rights, and why that right was only one to be killed and not to live.
The increasingly common acceptance of the view that it is better to abort handicapped babies was taken a step further by British writer Virginia Ironside when she declared that she would be prepared to suffocate a child to end its suffering, the Daily Mail newspaper reported Oct. 5.
Her comments came during a BBC1 radio program “Sunday Morning Live.” Ironside also said that aborting an unwanted or disabled baby, “is the act of a loving mother.”
Her statements provoked widespread criticism. Peter Evans, speaking on behalf of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “For us to make judgments that people are not worth life, not worth the opportunity to live, is a very dangerous thing,” the Daily Mail reported.
An accompanying article authored by Ian Birrell, the father of a disabled 16-year-old daughter, acknowledged the difficulties of caring for a handicapped child but also said that it was an intensely rewarding experience. He accused Ironside of revealing a mind-set all too common, namely that people with disabilities are inferior to others.
“Imagine the outcry if Ms Ironside had said black children or gay teenagers should be exterminated,” Birrell commented.
Others, however, defended her. Guardian newspaper columnist Zoe Williams argued that she had a “valid point and was brave to make it,” in an Oct. 5 article.
Williams declared that Ironside’s argument was a crucial move because she had asserted the moral dimension of being pro-choice. This was a blow to what Williams describes as “the self-proclaimed moral superiority of the anti-abortionists.”
The Sunday Times gave Virginia Ironside a chance to further explain her reasoning in an opinion piece published Oct. 10. She argued that mercy killings of elderly and sick people do occur and that judges usually take a lenient view of this. Extending this practice to the unborn or newly born is simply what a good mother would do, she said.
The attitude of eliminating those considered unfit will be aided by new tests that make it easier to detect abnormalities. A blood test for pregnant women capable of detecting almost all genetic disorders has been developed, London’s Time newspaper reported Dec. 9.
If more extensive trials confirm the preliminary results, the test could eventually replace more invasive and riskier techniques such as amniocentesis, that involves inserting a needle in the womb to take a sample of fetal tissue.
As well, the test can be used as early as the eighth week of pregnancy, well before procedures currently used, giving women longer to decide whether to have an abortion, the Times added.
Alasdair Palmer, commenting on the news in the Dec. 11 edition of the London-based Telegraph newspaper, said that tests such as this could have prevented people like him being born. Palmer, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, raised the concern of a possible increase in abortions of babies with genetic defects, including minor ones such as a cleft palate.
Down Syndrome babies are routinely aborted, he noted, and once you accept the mentality of this being an acceptable practice, it becomes difficult to draw a line. Should we abort those suffering from dyslexia, autism, or being exceptionally short, he asked.
“I cannot see any basis that would enable the law to specify, never mind enforce, a principle which says: this genetic defect is bad enough to mean that it would be better if the foetus was never born — but this one isn’t,” Palmer reflected.
Even without the new test there has been a significant decline in the birth of children with genetic disorders, due to selective abortion. A lengthy report by the Associated Press, published Feb. 17, quoted Dr. Wendy Chung, clinical genetics chief at Columbia University, as saying that due to screening there are decreased rates of disorders such as Tay-sachs.
In recent years, testing for cystic fibrosis has increased, and in Massachusetts, for example, births of babies with the condition dropped from 29 in 2000 to only 10 in 2003.
In California, the Associated Press reported, Kaiser Permanente, a large health organization, offered prenatal screening. From 2006 to 2008, 87 couples with cystic fibrosis mutations agreed to have fetuses tested, and 23 were found to have the disease. Sixteen of the 17 fetuses projected to have the severest type of disease were aborted, as were four of the six fetuses projected to have less severe disease.
Sometimes couples opt for abortion even when there is no genetic problem, as the Canadian National Post newspaper reported Dec. 10.
When the wife of an un-named couple in Toronto was found to be expecting twins, they felt they could not cope with an extra two children in addition to the young child they already had. So they decided upon what is termed “selective reduction,” and one of the twins was aborted.
The article quoted a New York obstetrician, Mark Evans, who is a specialist in this technique, and he said that many cases involve a couple on their second marriage who already have children and want just one more additional child.
“God loves each human being uniquely and profoundly,” Benedict XVI declared in Feb. 13 speech to members of the Pontifical Academy For Life.
The Pope observed that bioethics is a crucial battleground in the struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility. In this conflict it is vital to maintain the principle of human dignity as a source for the rights of persons.
“When respect for the dignity of the person is invoked, it is fundamental that it should be full, total and without restrictions other than those entailed in the recognition that it is always human life that is involved,” he affirmed.
The Pontiff warned that history shows how dangerous the state can be when it claims to be the source and principle of ethics and legislates on matters affecting the person and society.
The slide from a right to abortion to the right to be aborted amply demonstrates the perils of abandoning fundamental ethical principles.