The Child I Want

I appreciate the honesty of Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Watching various states attempt to enact more and more restrictions on abortion, she wrote of her strong personal feelings regarding the importance of keeping abortion legal.

The headline certainly grabs our attention: “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.” Noting how cute the new “Gerber Baby” is, Marcus reminds her readers that abortion is a choice, and that her choice would be to abort a 2nd trimester pregnancy, if it were determined that the child had Down syndrome. After acknowledging that parents have the right not to abort, she states, “That was not the child I wanted.”

At the end of the article, Marcus seems to back away from the implications of her beliefs. What if, instead of Down syndrome, the child was to have nearsightedness or was destined to be short instead of tall? “There are creepy, eugenic aspects of the new technology that call for vigorous public debate. 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.”

Clearly, Marcus does not really want debate. She wants the child she wants.

More thought has got to be given to these matters. Within a week’s time, another Washington Post columnist, George Will, wrote a strong response. Instead of emphasizing the importance of personal choice, he cites a chilling statistic. Only three children with Down syndrome were born in Iceland in 2009, because of the nation’s strong emphasis on pre-natal testing and equally strong push to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

In describing an improved life for a Down syndrome person, Will notes that just a few decades ago, they “. . . were institutionalized or otherwise isolated, denied education and other stimulation, and generally not treated as people.” And here lies the issue which confronts us all: when we decide who to treat as people, we dehumanize all.


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Mark McQuain
Mark McQuain
3 years ago

I also appreciate honesty but it is striking that she admits: “Certainly, to be a parent is to take the risks that accompany parenting; you love your child for who she is, not what you want her to be” only to follow with: “That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company.”

Steve Phillips
3 years ago

If we elevate personal liberty (choice) as the highest value then there is no law. All law is a curtailment of choice. We have laws because we understand that some people make choices that are wrong and are harmful to society and other individuals in society. It takes some imagination to read into the US Constitution a right to end the life of a fetus with Down syndrome based on what it says about due process of law.

Jon Holmlund
Jon Holmlund
3 years ago

Marcus’s sophistry is infuriating, and further evidence that thinking people should abandon the Washington Post and possibly most Western colleges and universities, if this is how the graduates “reason.” Of course, “This is not the child I wanted” is precisely the point of “reproductive freedom.” There can be no other conclusion than restriction-free killing of the unborn (and others) unless the “creepy” things are submitted to a broader societal discussion that may result in laws protecting at least some classes of individuals–as we have (don’t we) on the books in other contexts already? But any such laws would necessarily constrain individual autonomy in some cases. She does not “believe” that abortion is “the taking of a human life,” so she is a law unto herself. Never mind that a new organism is formed a quarter-second after sperm meets egg, and that, as Peggy Noonan wrote some years ago, “What is it? A ’57 Buick?”

Will is correct; Markus is advocating the elimination of a class of people–or maybe several. As we already knew was in progress.