‘Cheering eugenics’: Article on nation aborting children with Down Syndrome sparks backlash
A liberal magazine has prompted controversy for allegedly championing abortion following prenatal testing as a way to phase out a genetic condition that poses developmental challenges, using Denmark as an exemplar. “Few people speak publicly about wanting to ‘eliminate’ Down syndrome. Yet individual choices are adding up to something very close to that,” author Sarah Zhang wrote in The Atlantic.
In the tweet embedded below, Newsbusters managing editor Curtis Houck accused the publication of cheerleading for eugenics and murder, and everyone on the editorial staff should hang their head in shame. The response on social media to the feature called “The Last Children of Down Syndrome,” that contains a secondary headline that reads “Prenatal testing is changing who gets born and who doesn’t. This is just the beginning,” was, however, somewhat mixed.
In the lengthy article that readers can review and form their own conclusions, Zhang wrote, in part:
“[I]n 2004, Denmark became one of the first countries in the world to offer prenatal Down syndrome screening to every pregnant woman, regardless of age or other risk factors. Nearly all expecting mothers choose to take the test; of those who get a Down syndrome diagnosis, more than 95 percent choose to abort. Denmark is not on its surface particularly hostile to disability. People with Down syndrome are entitled to health care, education, even money for the special shoes that fit their wider, more flexible feet…
“Yet a gulf seems to separate the publicly expressed attitudes and private decisions. Since universal screening was introduced, the number of children born with Down syndrome has fallen sharply. In 2019, only 18 were born in the entire country. (About 6,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. each year.)”
Houck took to Twitter to condemn the article and also to call attention to a similar report from CBS News circa 2017 about how most women in Iceland terminate their pregnancy after receiving a positive Down syndrome test result.
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) November 18, 2020
“Eugenics in Denmark never became as systematic and violent as it did in Germany, but the policies came out of similar underlying goals: improving the health of a nation by preventing the birth of those deemed to be burdens on society,” The Atlantic science writer also explained.
The article itself as well as Houck’s tweet prompted a diverse and perhaps nuanced reaction on Twitter. Not everyone found it offensive. Here is a sample of those who expressed an opinion about this sensitive issue:
How you could read this article and draw the conclusion that they are cheering eugenics? It’s a quite comprehensive look at how prenatal testing has impacted the decision to continue a pregnancy when a child will be born with down syndrome or other genetic disorders. Period.
— Steve Kastenbaum (@SKastenbaum) November 19, 2020
This seems to be more like exposing or shedding daylight on a real issue and travesty rather than cheering or supporting. I’m glad the article exists, because this confirms a problem the prolife community has been talking about.
— Daniel (@DPBogle) November 18, 2020
A for outrage, F for reading comprehension.
— Good Lord, What Now? (@ArchivesBoy) November 18, 2020
Down syndrome isn’t a disease that can be eliminated. They aren’t eliminating the disease, they are just murdering the people who might have it.
— Sam Armstrong (@SamStrongTalks) November 18, 2020
People who have Down Syndrome are some of the happiest people I have ever encountered. While there are challenges, they brighten the world they live in.
This is a travesty.
— J (@RowTide09) November 19, 2020
People with Down syndrome tend to be very loving and happy people. To kill them in the womb is just wrong. Evil to be clear.
— MattSkilletGuy (@Mattskilletguy) November 19, 2020
Why stop there? Let’s get the diabetics, the family history of cancer, and don’t forget sickle cell. And you people call the right nazis?!
— mark b (@walkmansdad) November 19, 2020
We should all ask ourselves if we’re ok with eugenics. Seriously. Does ‘womans’ health’ / privacy/right to choose allow for selective elimination? Is it always ok to have an abortion, no matter the reason?
— Nacho Dell (@hodellm) November 19, 2020
Parts of this article seem to refer to abortion as a preventative service and other parts seem to hint at the gravity of taking life. If consistency and human rights are to be valued at all, and an embryo is human life – we can’t end it, full stop.
— Crusader Succ (@CrusaderSucc) November 19, 2020
The left knows all about eugenics. Their hero, Margaret Sanger, was a huge advocate.
— Ob-Gyn Kenobi (@kenobi_gyn) November 19, 2020
Parenthetically, The Atlantic is the same outlet that in September published unsubstantiated anonymous allegations, otherwise known as a politicized hit piece, that President Trump disparaged U.S. soldiers.