Santorum and Prenatal Testing: Read Tucker Carlson’s Classic Essay on the Abortion of Down Syndrome Babies

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Feb. 21 2012 2:45 PM

Eugenics, American Style

Santorum says prenatal testing leads to abortions. Read Tucker Carlson’s classic essay on prenatal testing and the abortion of Down syndrome babies.

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Dr. Bill Cohen of the Down Syndrome Center of Western Pennsylvania, a noted authority on the disorder, has much the same response when asked about his views on abortion. "If someone comes to me and says that they're thinking about terminating the pregnancy, my job is not to convince them not to," he says. "This is not a right-to-life issue. This is a choice issue. This is an information issue. ... It's hard enough to deal with any of these things without being made to feel on top of it that you've done something wrong."

Yet, it's difficult to shake the feeling that those who abort a child simply because he or she has Down Syndrome have done something wrong. Children with Down Syndrome are not monsters, but uncommonly gentle human beings who can and do lead full lives. And there are alternatives to abortion. "It's not at all difficult" to find homes for kids with Down Syndrome, says Janet Marchese of the Down Syndrome Adoption Exchange in White Plains, New York, one of several agencies of its kind in the United States. Over the past 20 years, Marchese has placed about 3,600 children with Down Syndrome; her waiting list of couples hoping to adopt rarely dips below 100.

What do people who would adopt a Down Syndrome child know that most obstetricians do not? "Having a child with Down Syndrome is not such a big deal—if you have some experience with Down Syndrome you realize that," says Nancy Simpson of Chesapeake Down Syndrome Parent Group in Phoenix, Maryland, whose eight-year-old daughter has Down Syndrome. "It's definitely not as easy as raising a typical child; there are a lot of things that are involved in it. Raising a child with Down Syndrome takes extra patience and extra care and extra time. But you also get back a completely different perspective on the world, and a great deal of love."

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Sentiments like these are almost unimaginable to Jeffrey Greenspoon, M.D. Greenspoon is the director of the high-risk obstetric unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. In the summer of 1995, during the beginning of the debate over partial-birth abortion, Greenspoon sent a letter to Rep. Henry Hyde passionately defending the procedure, especially in cases where a child might be born with "problems ... incompatible with a normal life," such as Down Syndrome.

"A pregnancy that is desired and planned is the foundation for the next generation of productive, healthy Americans," Greenspoon wrote. "The burden of raising one or two abnormal children is realistically unbearable."

Reached at his office, Greenspoon admits that he approves of eugenics—weeding out "babies who don't have much of a viable life." What makes him uncomfortable, he says, is the word "eugenics," which somehow has assumed "bad connotations over time. I think the better terms would be 'genetic counseling' and 'prenatal diagnosis' and 'having a country in which the option to exercise choice in whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy is a right of the people.'" After all, he says, "Sometimes you need to abandon words that have common meanings that connote the wrong ethics or morals."

But only the words have changed.

Tucker Carlson is the editor of the Daily Caller.