The Price of Modern Eugenics
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black showed that selective eugenics are alive and well in America this month as he blocked an Ohio law that would have out-lawed abortions after an unborn baby is diagnosed with down syndrome. The immediate effects of this ruling are tragic as it will allow more babies to be killed due to a down syndrome diagnosis. The long-term implications, however, are even more chilling and should alarm all Americans.
Black’s ruling purports to protect a woman’s right to choose whether to have a child, saying that “liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”
This definition of liberty allows people to determine, if they so choose, that those with down syndrome do not count as people under “one’s own concept of existence.” This implies that there is no true answer to questions about existence and meaning and any answer someone might come up with is equally valid.
If this premise is true, Black’s ruling makes perfect sense. There is no reason why society shouldn’t be able to decide that those with down syndrome do not have the same worth as those without it. Although Black does not state this, the implication is that the worth of babies with down syndrome is predicated upon society’s judgment of their worth. They have no inherent dignity as human beings. This means that, in order to justify their own existence, these unborn babies must prove their societal utility. This has proven difficult for babies diagnosed with down syndrome as they are aborted at a rate of 67 percent.
The precedent set by this case, and other similar cases, could quickly lead America to a even darker place. If societal utility is the measure of a person’s worth, the eugenics movement of the 1920’s could very well re-emerge. During this time, thousands of Americans were forcibly sterilized in an attempt to breed out the less desirable traits of humanity. Instead of striving to care for and protect those with disabilities, decisions like this one show that we view their very existence as optional. Instead of considering what we can do for them, we are questioning what they can do for us. This transactional view of human relationships undermines the dignity of all people and reduces our value to what we can do for others. In such a world true love would be impossible and much of what makes life worth living would disappear.
In order to determine what love ought to look like in America, we should evaluate the only perfect example of love available to us; Jesus Christ. He came down to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost.” He came down for the sake of fallen humanity and suffered for our sake. Humanity is so broken, wicked, and foolish that we can offer no benefit to a perfect, all-powerful God. In spite of this, He still sacrificed for our sake. This is the model of love our society should be emulating.
People with disabilities present us a unique opportunity to learn this kind of love. Often, they are not capable of re-paying our love in the same way that most others are. By loving them, we are therefore able to practice the perfect, selfless love that Christ demonstrated for us. Black’s ruling is bad not only due to the intrinsically evil acts that it would allow, but also because it rests on a flawed, value-based understanding of human relationships.