Letter: A legacy of pro-life advocacy

Wednesday’s profile of the life of Sargent Shriver (“Shriver dead at 95,” Jan. 19) did an admirable job of covering the many facets of an extraordinary man, from his time at the News itself to his role in fostering social programs like the Peace Corps. But one crucial component of Shriver’s political activity was left out — his unwavering opposition to abortion. The last pro-life individual to ever appear on a national Democratic ticket, Shriver knew that compassion for the poor and the oppressed meant defending the most helpless humans of all, the unborn. So in an age when over 90 percent of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome are destroyed, we should remember the full breadth of Shriver’s vision of public service. As the Shrivers did with the Special Olympics, let us improve the lives of the disabled rather than terminate them.

Matthew Gerken

Jan. 19

The writer is a senior in Morse College.

Comments

  • Labanite

    I appreciate this.

  • River Tam

    Yup. The YDN managed to elide Shriver’s role as the Last Great Pro-Life Democrat.

  • commentator

    “So in an age when over 90 percent of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome are destroyed, we should remember the full breadth of Shriver’s vision of public service.” We should strive for 100% percent.

  • River Tam

    > We should strive for 100% percent.

    Last I saw commentator, he (she?) was accusing me of engaging in “Social Darwinism”. The irony is not lost on me, but this comment disgusts me nonetheless.

  • commentator

    No irony. There is nothing particularly social about this, it’s strictly biological. The two rarely go together. Fetuses are not part of society.
    Disgust? OK. Not that I care. There is no conceivable reason to bring to this world children with Down Syndrome. Over 90% of mothers who find themselves in such unfortunate situation already know that and have an abortion. Probably around bout 5% or so goes undetected until birth. This means that the percentage of women who knowingly give birth to children w/Down Syndrome is in low single digits. There is a reason for that.

  • River Tam

    > There is no conceivable reason to bring to this world children with Down Syndrome.

    Is there a conceivable reason to let them live once they are born? Because if so, there’s a conceivable reason to bring them into this world.

    I have two cousins with Downs. Individuals with Downs are among the truly happiest people I have seen. Simply because you do not think their lives are worthwhile does not mean *they* do not. And that’s what really matters in the end. Their own happiness is a compelling reason to bring them into this world.

    It’s one thing to support the abortion of Downs fetuses (I also find that disturbing, but I’ll let it go for now). But to actually *advocate* that we should strive for *completion* on this matter?

    I find it depraved.

    > This means that the percentage of women who knowingly give birth to children w/Down Syndrome is in low single digits. There is a reason for that.

    You’re misunderstanding the statistic. 90% of *fetuses diagnosed with Downs* are aborted. That means 10% of women knowingly give birth to a Downs child. In addition, you have to *elect* to have an amniocentesis (6% of pregnancies have them, according to wikipedia), which further skews the statistics in favor of people looking to abort Downs individuals.

  • commentator

    You are right about the statistics, my mistake.
    “Is there a conceivable reason to let them live once they are born? Because if so, there’s a conceivable reason to bring them into this world.” Not quite. I don’t think we can decide whether or not to let people live. On the other hand, we can decide to end a first/early second trimester pregnancy (by that time you can generally know whether there are problems with the baby).

    “Individuals with Downs are among the truly happiest people I have seen.” I am glad. Really, I am. I think everything should be done for people born w/Down Syndrome to be as happy as they can be, just like any other human being. But yes, I also think it’s a horrible disorder which includes severe mental and physical problems, and I would like to see it abolished.

  • 11

    I have a knee-jerk opposition to anything Matthew Gerken says. With that said, Down syndrome can’t be abolished. It’s not an inherited condition, it’s a de novo genetic defect.

    Is this really the right time to plug the anti-abortion movement? It seems kind of an irrelevant tack-on.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    > There is no conceivable reason to
    > bring to this world children with Down
    > Syndrome.

    River:

    My church celebrated National Sanctity of Life Day last Sunday. A member of the congregation brought his family up on stage one by one, explaining their life story. He had them lined up: Him, his wife, his four children. His second son has Downs. He explained that, had he and his wife listened to “conventional wisdom,” his youngest daughter would never have been born. He stated “I cannot imagine life without [my daughter],” and he had her leave the stage.

    Then he had his third child take a seat, explaining again, had he listened to “conventional wisdom” that that child would not have been born. “You see,” he said, “once you have one child with Downs, the doctors are afraid you’ll have more, and some counsel against further children. I cannot imagine my life without [my third child].”

    Then he had his second son sit. This son had been born in Russia–doctors there (world leaders in abortion) could not believe that his wife was not going to terminate the child.”

    > There is no conceivable reason to
    > bring to this world children with Down
    > Syndrome.

    He went on to explain the richness this boy brought to his life, and the sensitivity, the compassion, the empathy he brought out in his other children. He also stated your very thought: that his son was one of the happiest people he knew, and brought the family immense happiness as well. “I cannot imagine my life without [my second son],” he said.

    Commentator: do you know that there are families standing by, right now, to adopt children with Downs Syndrome? Do you know that the US “imports” such children from other countries?

    > There is no conceivable reason to
    > bring to this world children with Down
    > Syndrome.

    You are, indeed, entitled to your opinions. But take care against rigidity, because views can change as you gain perspective, and then it can become difficult to cede ground where you may have dug in and fortified so well your position. Take it from a former abortion-clinic defender: views can change.

  • River Tam

    > But yes, I also think it’s a horrible disorder which includes severe mental and physical problems, and I would like to see it abolished.

    You clearly do not understand what Downs is.

  • commentator

    OK, let’s pretend that having Down Syndrome is fabulous.

  • River Tam

    > OK, let’s pretend that having Down Syndrome is fabulous.

    No, I mean that if you think aborting Downs babies will “abolish it”, you:

    1. Don’t understand the meaning of the word “abolish”
    2. Don’t understand the cause of Downs syndrome

  • commentator

    Abolish: To put an end to, do away with (an institution, custom, or practice); to eradicate, destroy (something prevalent); to annul or make void.

    As for the causes of it all, it’s probably true that you cannot get rid of it completely. But it’s reasonable to assume that screening will get even more efficient, and that it will be detected very, very early in the pregnancy, so you can reasonably expect that there will be no unintended babies w/Down syndrome. As for those who choose to give birth to a baby w/Down syndrome, it’s their choice. And I’m all for choice.

  • River Tam

    > Abolish: To put an end to, do away with (an institution, custom, or practice); to eradicate, destroy (something prevalent); to annul or make void.

    You are using “abolish” in the sense of “eradicate”. You cannot abolish a disease.

    > As for those who choose to give birth to a baby w/Down syndrome, it’s their choice.

    You said earlier that we should “strive for a 100%” abortion of “fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome”. This is at odds with your hollow applause of “choice”.

  • commentator

    Yes, I think we should strive for 100%, but I am certainly not interested in forcing women into a decision to have an abortion. So, yes, I think women should not give birth to babies with Down syndrome, but it’s ultimately their choice.

    As for your little piece linguistic pedantry, there are endless medical publications which talk about ‘abolishing cancer’, not to mention the website abolishcancer.com, or organizations like The Long Island League to Abolish Cancer…

  • yalebird

    Before I lay out this argument, I’d like to say that I’m still on the fence about abortion in general.

    1. This obviously isn’t a perfect comparison, but: a woman who’s had both her legs amputated is obviously going to draw some strength from her condition (hopefully). That said, if you ask her whether or not she’d like her legs back, what do you think her response will be?

    2. Imagine that you could assign a soul – Dana – to a body when choosing to have a child. That is to say, whether or not a mother gives birth to a child from a given sperm-egg combination or another has no importance – it’s mentally and spiritually still Dana, and the DNA is interchangeable. It’s understandable that you want Dana to have more or less a fair shot, intellectually and physically, at life as basically everyone else, right?

    3. Let’s say there’s a fair chance that Dana’s body is going to have Down’s Syndrome. Let’s say there’s a fair chance either way. Now, for the sake of giving Dana more or less a fair shot, intellectually and physically, at life, it’s understandable that you’d want to do what you could to give Dana that shot, right?

    Now, there’s an obvious problem in this logic. Namely: people don’t work that way. We don’t assign people core identities, they’re more or less born with them. Here’s my point proper: given that there are billions of possible egg-sperm combinations, the vast, vast majority of which will never be realized and will never give us the kind of fulfillment a child can, why can’t we think of it that way, more or less? Meaning: if we’re already O.K. with all this potential that isn’t actualized, then how much meaning does our native conscience really allow us to give to a given identity?

    To put it another way, you can argue that unborn life is life, and that to allow abortion puts us on a slippery slope (which is true) – but the slope slips both ways. We’re already refusing to actualize a vast number of potential identities. Moreover, if the potential being in question is not conscious (and don’t tell me a zygote is conscious), why should it care one way or another?

    The ultimate point is that if we can come to some definition of consciousness AND have the capability to identify certain handicaps in an unborn child before this point, why not employ abortion in this manner? Obviously if the latter is impossible, I would never advocate this measure; I have more reservations about the former being impossible, but who knows.

    Understand, I’m not cold-hearted, but a) I do want my children to have a degree of control over their lives way that many conditions (including, but not restricted to, Down’s Syndrome), and b) I’m more inclined to preserve consciousness than I am to preserve life. Almost nobody disagrees that killing plants to eat them is immoral, after all.

    So…hope that wasn’t too long-winded, and it is not my intention to offend anyone. This is just my line of thinking, is all.

  • River Tam

    > As for your little piece linguistic pedantry, there are endless medical publications which talk about ‘abolishing cancer’, not to mention the website abolishcancer.com, or organizations like The Long Island League to Abolish Cancer…

    They are also engaged in a blatant abuse of the English language.

  • Labanite

    Though I am sometimes in disagreement with River Tam, I am entirely with her on this one. Does commentator have any family with Down’s? If so, I am surprised. The first comment about making it 100%–even if it wasn’t intended, as I suspect it wasn’t–was incredibly offensive to anyone with retarded family members, myself included. There’s no changing that, so let’s move onto more palpable things.

    There is a lot of semantic argument over the word ‘abolish.’ Let’s draw some important distinctions. To abolish cancer is to prevent someone from dying. To abolish Down’s Syndrome, in the way that Commentator describes it, is to prevent someone from living. These are not the same things. Our society is extremely quick to view mental disorders as equivalent to purely physical disorders, but they’re not. I too want to get rid of Down’s Syndrome, but not by preventing them from living. As stated before, it is due to a De Novo mutation–it can never be eradicated entirely. The best thing is to provide as much support as possible. My brother is disabled, and if someone were to suggest that we should prevent his ‘type’ from being born, I would horrified. If someone were to suggest immediate intervention, on the other hand, I would open to it. People with Down’s Syndrome have as much right to experience the world as typically developing people do, and we must remember we can only guess what their experience really is. But I can tell you (and I know you realize this, Commentator, but it deserves emphasizing), I have never seen anyone smile or laugh as much as my brother.

  • commentator

    I can certainly understand that the use of the word ‘abolish’ strikes a cord with people who have the Down Syndrome among their loved ones. For the record, I don’t wish anyone’s family members ‘abolished’. On the contrary, I think that people with this condition should have all the support and care they can possibly get.
    Having said that, I also believe that fetuses with Down syndrome should be aborted. I am sorry, but it’s as simple as that. That is what I mean by eradicated – clearly not stopping the mutation from ever happening, but terminating pregnancies where the mutation does appear. Of course, I have no ambition to force anyone to do this, but I have made the decision for myself -if I can help it, I will not have a child with this condition, and if anyone close to me ever asks for advice, I have an answer prepared.
    I don’t think that aborting a fetus with the Down syndrome is ‘preventing someone from living’, for the simple reason I don’t think that fetuses are ‘someone’. But ultimately, I understand this is a matter of philosophical differences which are unlikely to be resolved.