Steve Chapman

Selective abortion, however, does not target only girls. Recent screening advances now make it easier and safer to detect Down syndrome in the womb. Universal screening will have a predictable impact, because 92 percent of fetuses diagnosed with the abnormality are aborted.

Paul Root Wolpe, director of Emory University's Center for Ethics, told the New York Post, "What you end up having is a world without people with Down syndrome."

No one would object if that were achieved by curing the condition. But eradicating it through abortion doesn't sound so benign. A survey reported in the American Journal of Medical Genetics found that only 4 percent of parents with Down syndrome children regret having them -- and nearly 99 percent of the people with the disorder said they are happy with their lives.

The practice of eliminating people who are regarded as unacceptable because of their sex or significant defects was probably an inevitable result of the proliferation of abortion. There may be others even more ominous.

A recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics argues that abortion should not be limited to fetuses that have not yet been born. The authors propose instead to allow "after-birth abortion," which is "ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be" -- which means, really, for any reason at all.

That policy may not be so improbable. Ann Furedi, head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, has said, "There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms it from a fetus into a person." The Netherlands now allows physicians to euthanize newborns with a "hopeless prognosis" and "unbearable suffering" if the parents authorize it.

Abortion-rights advocates think the right to choose has conferred great benefits. Maybe so, but not on everyone.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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