Monday, August 06, 2007

Shtetls of the unborn

Political correctness has its limits. It is considered an insult to call a person 'sick' because he is gay. This is not to say that the sick are less worthy than the gay, yet open-minded types can generally accept that it is offensive (not to mention inaccurate) to refer to homosexuality as an illness. Without unduly upsetting those with mental impairments and their families, it seems fair to say that Virginia Arbery's comparison of fetuses with Down Syndrome to children and adult Jews is so, so wrong:

I understand that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is offering women a safer method than amniocentesis to determine whether a child has Down syndrome. The College makes the argument that it is more responsible to inform parents of their options beforehand so that they can decide whether or not to let the baby live.

This argument shakes me to the core, for it bears all the marks of a pogrom – the license to be aggressive against the most benign population conceivable.

As a pro-choice anti-natalist, I do not believe that those yet to be born can belong to 'populations.' A Jewish woman who fails to produce Jewish babies is not 'killing off' the Jewish nation, nor is a woman who chooses to abort a fetus that (sorry, not 'who') tests positive for Down Syndrome being "aggressive." This, however, is as far as such a comparison can be taken. To refer to Jews, albeit indirectly, as "the most benign population conceivable," in the same way that those with low mental capacity are harmless, is so silly that it crosses over from offensive to outright absurd.

Via Cheryl Miller at the American Scene.


Miss Self-Important said...

What is an "anti-natalist," or a pro-natalist, for that matter?

Phoebe said...

Natalism is the belief that women generally, or just women of a particular group (race or nationality), should have as many babies as possible. Pro-natalist and natalist mean the same thing. These views were plenty popular in mid-20th century France, and are also big among a set of conservatives in the US today. Anti-natalist could mean that one fears overpopulation, but it could also mean, as it does in my case, that one thinks women themselves should decide how many babies to bring into the world, and that political ends should not be achieved by demands for more of this or that type of baby.

Miss Self-Important said...

Ah, I see. Well, in that case, although I see your point about her unfortunate word choice, I don't think natalism is really the issue here. The argument over aborting babies with Down Syndrome or other genetic diseases is not really about demography as much as it's about ethics. Or it should be about ethics, in any case, notwithstanding some arguments that genetic screening should be used to select for desired disabilities like deafness so that the deaf community can continue to flourish. If anything, demographic arguments are often more repulsive and make a more forceful case against genetic selection precisely because they sound so overtly eugenic than arguments about parents' or individual's rights.

Phoebe said...

And I see your point about the passage I cite not being directly about natalism; my point was that this was the only angle from which one can reasonably compare Jews with the mentally handicapped. But elsewhere in her article, as well as all over this recent eugenics debate, arguments against promoting/permitting abortion of fetuses that test positive for Down Syndrome is wrong because 'they' are such great children. (George Will's piece , along with the comments to it, comes to mind).