NRL News

Cognitive dissonance and prenatal testing

by | Nov 27, 2013


By Dave Andrusko

Downschild9We’ve written about the cognitive dissonance that can (alas, it often doesn’t) accompany a pro-abortion feminist’s failure to condemn sex-selection abortions—babies killed for one reason and one reason only: they are girls. But gendercide is not the only example of where people condone abortions when their own situation ought to scream out to them “no!”

Adrienne Asch died over the weekend. She is rightly described “an internationally known bioethicist.” These two headlines—which ran over the same story—speak volumes.

From the New York Times: “Adrienne Asch, Bioethicist and Pioneer in Disability Studies, Dies at 67.”

From the (Canadian) Globe and Mail, “Adrienne Asch’s pro-choice stand excluded prenatal testing.”

I had not followed her career closely enough to draw any global conclusions. I suspect the Times’ lead sentence bears some of the truth: “Adrienne Asch, an internationally known bioethicist who opposed the use of prenatal testing and abortion to select children free of disabilities, a stance informed partly by her own experience of blindness.”

I am not a trained philosopher so the distinction Asch drew between supporting abortion in general but aborting a child because she/he was diagnosed to have a disability is beyond me to critique academically. To me it really is a distinction without a difference. But one doesn’t have to be an academician to see that Prof. Asch understood the injustice at one level but profoundly missed the injustice that is at the ground floor of support for abortion.

The Times’ Margalit Fox, in her obituary, quoted from a 1999 article in The American Journal of Public Health, where Prof. Asch wrote, “My moral opposition to prenatal testing and selective abortion flows from the conviction that life with disability is worthwhile and the belief that a just society must appreciate and nurture the lives of all people, whatever the endowments they receive in the natural lottery.” But why does that logic not apply to any and all preborn life, regardless of their “endowments”?

Mark Leach, writing on his blog, offered quotes from Asch’s ”Disability equality and prenatal testing: contradictory or compatible?” which was part of a symposium convened and published by the Florida State University Law School. Here’s one:

“If counselors, midwives, and obstetricians are truly committed to patient decision-making and to informed reproductive choice, they should be providing enough information about life with a disabling condition so that prospective parents can imagine the ways in which life can be worthwhile as well as those in which it can be difficult.”

But, of course, that is EXACTLY the information all “counselors, midwives, and obstetricians” could and should provide in all cases. If they do, they can help those parents, too, to “imagine the ways in which life can be worthwhile as well as those in which it can be difficult.”

Categories: pre-natal testing