Columnist Who Defended Aborting Down Syndrome Babies Accuses Critics of 'Fury and Invective'

The McElwee family live with and overcome the daily challenges associated with Down syndrome.
The McElwee family live with and overcome the daily challenges associated with Down syndrome. | (Photo: Grace Hill Media/The McElwee Family)

A columnist who defended aborting Down syndrome babies is doubling down on her views amid criticism for pro-life advocates.

Women who opt to terminate pregnancies carrying a child diagnosed with the genetic disorder are the "silenced majority," she argued.

In a Friday Washington Post column, editor Ruth Marcus reiterated her views that women should be able to choose to have an abortion if the sole reason was a positive pre-natal test showing the likelihood of Down syndrome. House GOP Chair and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, whose 10-year-old son, Cole, has Down syndrome, wrote on Twitter and spoke on Fox News about how "offensive" and "disturbing" she found Marcus' first article.

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"To listen to McMorris Rodgers is to grasp the sincerity of her convictions and the depth of her love. So I write not to add offense but to suggest, respectfully, that while McMorris Rodgers's choice was the right one for her and her family, it would not have been the right one for me and mine — nor for many others who reached out with their stories, both about living with relatives with Down syndrome and terminating such pregnancies," Marcus opined in her second column on the subject.

She recounted that she had received many emails from women who supported her position, including from one who had aborted a Down syndrome child "without hesitation," and another who had a now-grown child with the condition who "no doubt" would have aborted a second child had a prenatal screening tested positive for it and would "fight to the dying breath for a woman's right to choose" to do likewise.

"These emails reflect a silenced majority — silenced because, as I discovered, saying that you would terminate a pregnancy for this reason unleashes fury and invective. That these readers reflect the majority view is not proof that their attitude is correct; morality is not determined by popular vote," Marcus argued.

"But their voices do illustrate the agonizing complexity of the matter and reinforce my fundamental point: This is a choice that must remain with the individual who will live with the consequences, not with a government imposing its will on her."

Advocates for the unborn did not hesitate to comment on the Washington Post editor's second iteration of her views, just as McMorris Rodgers and others did the first time.

"At a certain level Ruth Marcus knows that it is shameful to regard people with Down syndrome — or any human beings — as lebensunwertes leben," tweeted Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University on Monday. The German phrase "lebensunwertes leben" means "life unworthy of life" and was a Nazi designation for the segments of the populace which, according to the authoritarian regime's perspective, had no right to live.

"But she is doubling down to avoid bringing that knowledge into focus and squarely confronting it. How long can this internal struggle go on?" he asked.

Similarly, journalist Alexandra DeSanctis, who covers pro-life issues for National Review, said in a Twitter thread Saturday, "I guess Ruth Marcus decided that one column devaluing the lives of unborn children with Down syndrome just wasn't enough," maintaining that the columnist failed to understand the negative responses she received.

"When your stance is 'it's okay (or even good) to exterminate particular innocent human lives,' positioning the issue as merely a matter of personal choice vs. government interference is simply not a good enough argument," DeSanctis said.

"An unborn child diagnosed with Down syndrome is always a living human being. His or her humanity does not ebb and flow based on the mother's opinion of whether or not he or she is worthy of life."

She concluded: "If you're going to use a eugenic rationale to deny children with Down syndrome the fundamental right to life, @RuthMarcus, you ought to be willing to defend your position with more than a nod to individual autonomy.

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter Follow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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