Yankee Doodle Eugenics

The cover of a recent issue of the Weekly Standard reminded me of Thomas Jefferson's words: "I tremble for my country when I recall that God is just." Well, Thomas Jefferson isn't the only one who should be trembling. Because as Weekly Standard columnist Tucker Carlson put it, in a time when people with Down's syndrome can live lives that are "strikingly normal," they have been "targeted for elimination." This is eugenics, plain and simple. The breeding of a superior race, weeding out undesirables. Well, this instance of eugenics begins with an indisputable fact: The only way to "prevent" Down's syndrome is to prevent people with Down's syndrome from ever being born. In 1959 French geneticist Jerome Lejeune discovered the extra chromosome that causes Down's syndrome. Grasping the potential for evil, Lejeune became a vigorous opponent of abortion and prenatal testing, which he called "biological pornography." But Lejeune's words fell on deaf ears. In 1967 the prestigious American Medical Association passed a resolution endorsing abortion for "incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency." Following Roe v. Wade in 1973, the race to exterminate folks with Down's syndrome began in earnest. Since then, American women have been pressured by their doctors and insurance companies to undergo, first, prenatal testing and then abortion if tests reveal that the baby has Down's syndrome. And the strategy works: Some 90 percent of women abort their Down's syndrome babies. The motivation for promoting "Yankee Doodle eugenics" is efficiency. Economist Nachum Sicherman estimates that a person with Down's syndrome will cost society $1 million during his lifetime. That's why most states now require physicians to tell pregnant women about the availability of prenatal testing. And insurance companies, in Tucker Carlson's words, have become "indecorously eager" to promote and pay for these expensive tests. There's another kind of "efficiency" at work here. Geneticists believe that "preventing" Down's syndrome will improve the genetic stock. F. Clarke Fraser, the founder of the Genetics Clinic at Montreal Children's Hospital, calls it what it is and endorses it: "There's nothing wrong with eugenics," he says. And not to be outdone, Nobel Laureate James D. Watson favors killing all newborns who score below a designated threshold on the APGAR scale, a test given to newborns to determine the baby's health. Pro-life Christians are often criticized for drawing analogies between abortion and the Holocaust. However, this modern tale of Yankee Doodle eugenics raises an unavoidable question: What do you call a political order in which eugenics and genocide have become official policy? Do our villains have to wear swastikas for us to recognize the evil they do, ostensibly in our name? The next time people say, "Oh, you're one of those religious fanatics, who use extreme rhetoric about abortion and claim it will take us down the road of the Nazis," ask them if they know that, as policy, we are now consciously trying to avoid undesirables, weeding out the unfit--selecting which children shall live. And then ask them who they really think is being an extremist.


Chuck Colson


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