Leading congressional pro-lifers are voicing their alarm and dismay at a Washington Post columnist who argued in favor of women aborting their babies even if the only reason was a positive pre-natal test for Down syndrome.
In a March 9 article titled, "I Would've Aborted a Fetus with Down Syndrome. Women Need That Right," Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus explained that while it would be "tragic" and "ghastly" to undergo a second-trimester abortion — likely the point when such a procedure would occur — she would have terminated a pregnancy where an amniocentesis screening showed the presence of an extra chromosome yielding Down syndrome.
"I'm' going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted," Marcus posited, explaining the health challenges, limited intellectual abilities and cognitive impairments children with Down syndrome usually have, in addition to how their condition alters the life of the entire family.
"That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision."
State legislatures in North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana have all recently approved bills prohibiting doctors from performing abortions if the only reason is because of a Down syndrome diagnosis; similar legislation is under consideration in Utah. Such laws are unconstitutional and contradict the right to abortion spelled out in the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, Marcus argued.
"Technological advances in prenatal testing pose difficult moral choices about what, if any, genetic anomaly or defect justifies an abortion. Nearsightedness? Being short? There are creepy, eugenic aspects of the new technology that call for vigorous public debate," the author conceded.
"But in the end, the Constitution mandates — and a proper understanding of the rights of the individual against those of the state underscores — that these excruciating choices be left to individual women, not to government officials who believe they know best."
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represents Washington state in Congress and is the chair of the House Republicans, found the article disturbing. McMorris Rodgers has a son with Down syndrome, Cole, who is now in fifth grade and reportedly loves basketball, enjoys learning, and is a great big brother.
"After reading the opinion piece in the @washingtonpost about aborting babies with Down syndrome, I struggled to put into words how offensive it is," the House GOP chair tweeted Sunday, in the first of a thread of posts.
"I know how difficult it is to be told that your child's life is going to be different than you dreamed," she added in a subsequent tweet.
McMorris Rodgers said she challenged others earlier this year to find ways to reach out to those who are not yet friends of the pro-life community by sharing their stories. She tweeted several articles showcasing the ways in which individuals with Down syndrome were changing the world for the better, including one about Lucas Warren, the latest Gerber baby, and another highlighting small businessman Blake Pyron, who owns a snow cone shop.
Children with Down syndrome "are a reminder to us all that we live in an extraordinary time in which we're not bound by the conditions of our birth. We should be celebrating what every life has to offer. Every baby has a right to life, period," she said.
Likewise, US Senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse, a Republican, took to Facebook to express his thoughts on the Marcus editorial, making a point to mention the new Gerber baby, who has garnered significant media attention because he was the first ever baby to be named with the condition.
"Lucas' dignity is inherent, given by God, and it stays with him past the cute, cuddly phase of babyhood," Sasse explained.
"The truth of who he is stands in stark contrast with some of the news we see coming out of Europe lately. In Iceland, and in Denmark, there are actually groups that brag, 'we're closer to getting to 100% than anybody else. We're going to be first to be 100% Down Syndrome free.'"
Those groups are not speaking of a scientific breakthrough but boasting about getting rid such babies prior to being born because of the availability of pre-natal tests and screening, he said, noting that in France, a movement exists to forbid showing ads with Down syndrome babies who have become a happy and healthy Down syndrome kids lest it move people to compassion for such children.
"The contrast between the values displayed across Nebraska and those being bragged about in Europe is hard for [wife] Melissa and me to stomach," Sasse wrote.
Ben Domenech, publisher of the conservative site, The Federalist, was more blunt.
"Here is the reality. Here is the truth. We have been slowly but surely eradicating Down Syndrome in the West by destroying these children before they are born," he said Friday.
"History will judge the eradicators for what they are: eugenicists who transformed a genetic abnormality into a death serntence. It will not judge them kindly."