For its advocates, abortion has often been framed an implicit right. It is the right to agency over one's body. The right to make a medical decision without government involvement.
Abortion, they have argued, has little to do with the nascent life whose fate lies in the balance. The unborn child is usually ancillary, unrelated and never the subject of these discussions. That makes it easier to paper over the violence being done to her, especially for abortion advocates who rightly sense their argument is morally impaired.
But in recent years, something has shifted in the abortion debate, exemplified by the recent declaration that Iceland has used abortion to all but eliminate an entire population of people who possess a genetic abnormality. In the northern nation, 98 percent of unborn babies determined to have Down syndrome by genetic testing are aborted.
Indeed, abortion is no longer perceived as "safe and rare," a necessary evil, or even a personal medical decision, but an explicit right to end a person — or an entire category of persons — unworthy of life.
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The Washington Post's deputy opinion editor Ruth Marcus said as much in the lines of her column last week. Marcus wrote that had genetic testing revealed she was carrying a child with Down syndrome, "I can say without hesitation that, tragic as it would have felt and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on."
"That was not the child I wanted," she said bluntly.
After her column was published, abortion advocates heralded Marcus for her bravery; abortion opponents derided her words as callous and shocking.
But what Marcus said was not particularly brave or shocking.
We live in a society where some people believe that certain humans are undeserving of their natural right to existence; and our laws enshrine the imagined right to enforce their belief on a vulnerable population. To these people, Down syndrome is as good a reason as any — inconvenience, bad timing, financial distress — to end a nascent child's life.
The reason really doesn't matter when the end is always the same.
Or does it?
Many of Marcus' critics have noted that her argument is tantamount to eugenics.
As she describes it, a child with Down syndrome is one "whose intellectual capacity will be impaired, whose life choices will be limited, whose health may be compromised."
People with Down syndrome, Marcus continues, will have "limited capacity for independent living and financial security."
In fairness, so do plenty of millennials.
But Marcus isn't just defending the right to terminate a pregnancy, she is justifying that right by essentially arguing that it can eliminate an undesirable class of people who existence, in her estimation, is burdensome to society.
That reasoning would make the likes of Margaret Sanger and the architects of the Nazi Aktion T-4 program proud.
What's strange is that Marcus seems aware of the "creepy, eugenic aspects of the new technology" that enable parents to learn of their child's genetic makeup before birth — and not only their potential for abnormalities.
It's conceivable that in a matter of years, genetic testing will be able to tell us the odds that our children will be tall or short, fat or thin, gay or straight.
It's hard to imagine progressives like Marcus defending a mother who chose to terminate a child that such testing identified as gay because that was not the child the mother wanted. Or a mother who aborts a child simply because the baby is a girl.
But her insistence that our Constitution mandates these decisions be made by individual women and not the government means she should vigorously defend the destruction of any child whose existence would deviate from the norm or whose genetic destiny didn't fit her idea of what her child should be.
By this logic, America has re-embraced the insidious idea that some classes of people are less than human.