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Hoping people listen to their better angels when their baby has Down syndrome

by | Nov 6, 2018

By Dave Andrusko

Chris Kaposy, a bioethicist and the father of Aaron who has Down syndrome, has written a book titled, “Choosing Down Syndrome: Ethics and New Prenatal Testing Technologies.” He wrote a thoughtful op-ed for the New York Times  which summarizes the basis themes of his book.

You might ask yourself why a newspaper that is to pro-abortion advocacy what Hillary and Bill Clinton are to gathering exorbitant speaker fees would publish a piece titled, “The Ethical Case for Having a Baby With Down Syndrome.”

Well, for starters because Kaposy and his wife are both “pro-choice” and oppose laws “that make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion because of a positive prenatal test for Down syndrome.”

So with those assurances, I’m guessing that made the Times open to running his essay.

Here is part of how Amazon summarizes the approach of his new book:

People should be free to make important decisions based on their values. Kaposy’s argument shows that it may be consistent with their values to welcome a child with Down syndrome into the family.

Put another way,

Arguing from a pro-choice, disability-positive perspective, Kaposy makes the case that there is a common social bias against cognitive disability that influences decisions about prenatal testing and terminating pregnancies, and that more people should resist this bias by having children with Down syndrome.

Kaposy and his wife do want not new laws, they want more people willing to “include children with Down syndrome in their families.” How ? “[W]e just need more people to choose to have such children.”

Let’s see how he goes about persuading more people to choose life (my characterization).

Kaposy offers what is by now a standard but nonetheless powerful prescription against fear:

Parents of children with Down syndrome have written extensively about their lives and have contributed to many research studies, as have people with Down syndrome themselves. These sources tell us that the lives of people with Down syndrome tend to go well. Their families are as stable and as functional as those that include only children who aren’t disabled.

He also wisely offers the (alas needed) assurance that parents who do not abort are not “irresponsible or saintly.” Such parents “tend to be utterly normal and levelheaded people,” he writes. So you’re not crazy, he tells the liberal pro-abortion reader of the Times, if you carry your baby to term.

Kaposy observes that pro-choicers “typically embrace… autonomy in reproduction,” that is, the “capacity to choose, to some degree, the children we will raise.”

His final paragraphs are an attempt to square the circle by flattering those who worship unfettered “autonomy”:

But the concept of autonomy can be understood in different ways. In one sense, it simply means being free to choose, without infringement by the government. But, in a richer sense, it means choosing in accordance with one’s own values.

If you value acceptance, empathy and unconditional love, you, too, should welcome a child with Down syndrome into your life.

Put another way, if you are the kind of person you’d like to think you are, pro-choicer, you ought not to abort a child just because you discover he or she will have an extra chromosome.

So choice remains a sacrosanct virtue in this argument. Kaposy is asking people to choose to listen to the better angels of their nature.

I don’t know if this will convince the typical reader of the New York Times, but it is an awfully good try.

Categories: Down Syndrome