“If anyone has ever had the arms of a Down syndrome child or adult wrapped around your necks, you will know that you have encountered profound love that comes from the heart.” So states a Kentucky legislator in supporting a law banning abortions involving a fetus with Down syndrome if the diagnosis is the reason for ending a pregnancy.
Indiana and Ohio have already passed such bills, though a federal judge has temporarily blocked Ohio’s law from taking effect. Last Monday, the Pennsylvania House passed its own bill to ban such abortions. The bill passed with bipartisan support in a 139–56 vote.
If the bill passes in the Senate, it faces an expected veto from Gov. Tom Wolf.
In Iceland, nearly 100 percent of women who discover their unborn child has Down syndrome choose to abort their baby. In Denmark, the abortion rate for unborn babies with Down syndrome is 98 percent. The abortion rate in the US for such babies is 67 percent.
Famous people with inherited challenges
Since I believe life begins at conception and is sacred from that moment to natural death, obviously I oppose the decision to abort a child. Let’s consider this issue in the context of congenital conditions.
Imagine a world in which we abort all babies who have such conditions. Wikipedia lists 127 congenital disorders. Some famous people who may have inherited physical challenges include Frederic Chopin (cystic fibrosis), Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Edison (Asperger’s syndrome), and Abraham Lincoln (Marfan syndrome). Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, Super Bowl winner Tedy Bruschi, Pro Bowl football player Steve Hutchinson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were born with congenital heart disease.
Brynjar Karl Bigisson was ten years old when he constructed the world’s largest Titanic model built with Legos. The Iceland native spent eleven months creating the replica. It stands twenty-six feet long, five feet tall, and four feet wide. He used fifty-six thousand Legos to complete the model.
Brynjar is autistic. Before he started the project, he had trouble with communication and social interactions. Now he has confidence in talking with others and, according to his mother, his classmates see him “as another kid, not just autistic.”
Aborting a child specifically because he or she has a congenital condition is a tragic step down a very dark path.
Eugenics is “the practice or advocacy of controlled selective breeding of human populations . . . to improve the population’s genetic composition.” The term, which means “well-born,” was first used by Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton. The movement has led to horrific practices, such as Nazi experiments on prisoners and forced sterilization programs in the US.
Are we seeing eugenics at work today?
In vitro fertilization is the process whereby an egg and sperm are united in a laboratory to produce an embryo. The embryo is then tested (a process known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis) to determine its viability before being implanted in the mother’s womb. Doctors can now test for approximately two thousand inherited gene disorders before implantation.
Tests are also being developed for pregnant women to use in determining whether their unborn child has an inherited disease, so they can choose to abort the child. And experimental DNA editing on human embryos is being performed in the US, a step toward genetically modified humans.
“Acts of courage and belief”
Ideas have consequences. The idea that there are no absolute truths (itself an absolute truth claim) has become conventional wisdom in our culture.
It leads directly to the belief that a woman should be able to do whatever she wishes with her body and thus her unborn child (though her child is a genetically distinct person living in her body for only a short time). It leads to the belief that parents should be able to engineer their children through genetic means however they wish.
It leads to the plague of pornography, premarital sex, and adultery (since “consenting adults should be able to do what they want”). It leads to the redefinition of marriage and gender. And it leads to the belief that painless suicide should be easily available to all people; a 3D-printed euthanasia device unveiled last weekend is one response to this claim.
How should Christians respond?
One: Determine to live by the absolute truths of God’s word. Changed people change the world.
Two: Use your influence to encourage others to know and follow God’s word. Don’t assume that your children or friends are living biblically. Respond to the immorality of our day by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) wherever and whenever you can.
Three: Pray for the moral and spiritual awakening we desperately need. It is always too soon to give up on God.
Robert Kennedy: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.” Is God calling you to “acts of courage and belief” today?