Thursday, January 11, 2007

Brave New World

Most Macleans content -- except of course for Paul Wells' blog -- makes me either yawn or yell, but there's an interesting article on the ethics of reproductive technologies.
Advances in genetic screening have made it possible to "weed out" the disorder early in pregnancies, or even in advance of them. On Saturday, the National Post reported that the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada will soon follow the American lead by recommending that all pregnant women be screened for fetal abnormalities, including Down's...

University of Toronto philosophy professor Joseph Boyle was less sure. "Information as such is a good thing, particularly if there's some kind of good use for it," he responded. "But other than having an abortion if the child is discovered to have Down's, what good is that information going to be?"...

Parents of those with Down's have reacted angrily, as well. "I'm not sure what it is about our children that society abhors," Val Surbey wrote in a letter to the Post. "I can't understand what it is that he has done that is so horrible that society is looking to eliminate others like him."
I'm pretty open to these technologies, myself. If the parents want to abort a fetus with a crippling disability, I don't see that as an issue. But I'm also for a person -- or yes, their legal guardians in concert with medical opinion -- being allowed to choose euthanasia.

Basically, I don't see any way for us to avoid these kinds of selective abortions -- the technology for scans are proliferating, and abortion is and should remain legal, and that's pretty much all she wrote. The issue of banning this kind of abortion is, if anything, more clear than terminating a "normal" pregnancy. If a woman doesn't want to bring a disorder-free child to term, what right does the state have to force a disabled child on her?

People talk about "designer babies" or scenarios out of Gattaca. That's over-complicating things. Here we have two very simple technologies -- prenatal screenings and abortions -- and both have a legitimate place in our medical toolbox. But the idea of deliberately using them in concert seems to give people the willies.

Maybe this puts me on the Libertarian side of an issue, for once. I just don't see the pressing need to forbid this kind of stuff.

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