Oregon’s Democratic governor, Kate Brown, has just signed into law a radical new bill, and in so doing has made her state the nation’s leader in pro-abortion policy. The legislation requires all insurance companies in the state to cover abortion procedures, whatever the reason, at no cost to patients. Oregon will allocate an extra $10 million to its Medicaid program to cover the additional cost to insurers, which are forbidden from shifting costs to customers.
California and New York already have similar laws on the books, but Oregon’s is unique in its provision for absolutely all abortions, regardless of the mother’s reasons for obtaining the procedure. Included under that expansive umbrella are late-term abortions, sex-selective abortions, and abortions of children with Down syndrome — all generally acknowledged to be particularly objectionable procedures.
In the eyes of some, this is a form of “progress,” eliminating “unfit” persons to prevent suffering or to preserve only the most genetically fit individuals. But killing the sick rather than treating their ailments isn’t medical progress at all; it’s eugenics. Under Oregon’s new provision, this and other kinds of selective abortion not only are permitted but are now underwritten by the state’s taxpayers in the form of Medicaid reimbursements.
According to a 2012 meta-study, somewhere between 67 and 90 percent of mothers in the U.S. choose to have an abortion when their child is prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. If 90 percent is the absolute upper bound, termination rates in the U.S. are much lower than those in Europe. Iceland is at the high end of the spectrum, but plenty of European countries aren’t too far behind. In Denmark, between 95 and 98 percent of women abort if their child is diagnosed with Down syndrome; in the United Kingdom that percentage falls slightly to 90 percent. Europe as a whole has a Down-syndrome termination rate of 92 percent.
Groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood frequently use the rhetoric of “personal choice” to derail such bills. For example, from a Planned Parenthood press release on a particular Down-syndrome abortion ban: “Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision that must be left to women, in consultation with their families, faith, and health care providers.”
Last year in Indiana, Planned Parenthood successfully sued for an injunction against a state bill that would have banned abortions sought solely because of a baby’s genetic abnormalities, including Down syndrome. And this frightening attitude is found outside of these extremely pro-abortion activist groups, too.
The Democratic party is slowly beginning to fall in line with this radical stance. On the campaign trail last summer, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton unequivocally denounced the same Indiana bill and lauded Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against the state. The party’s other primary competitor, Bernie Sanders, was one of the first senators to introduce the federal Freedom of Choice Act, which would invalidate every abortion restriction in the entire nation.
And in one of last year’s general-election debates, Clinton staunchly defended partial-birth abortion, claiming that certain health conditions necessitate such grisly procedures:
The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who toward the end of their pregnancy get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy.
But, of course, there is no health condition a child could have that would require it to be killed outright. Clinton surely meant that the child might have a condition such as Down syndrome or another disability that would, supposedly, make death preferable to a life of suffering. Or perhaps even that a disability such as Down syndrome would make life too unpleasant for the child’s parents.
Many parents likely choose abortion after receiving a Down-syndrome diagnosis because they believe it is the compassionate choice. Such a view might be understandable on its face, but underneath lurks an evident failure to comprehend the dignity and value of every human life. For one thing, research shows that close to 100 percent of people with Down syndrome are happy and embrace their identity, and that close to 100 percent of their parents are glad they chose life. But even if those numbers weren’t so reassuringly high, how impoverished must we be to believe that no life at all is better than a life touched by pain?
The reality is that today’s progressive movement unilaterally pushes this view, and those on the left are increasingly required by the powerful pro-abortion lobby to embrace unlimited abortion-on-demand, bolstered by government funding. Oregon’s bill is the logical conclusion of this mindset, instating a regime of elective and selective abortion, no questions asked, with taxpayers footing the bill.
Allowing Down-syndrome children to be targeted for extermination is merely the logical end of such a radical left-wing perspective. If a woman must be free to abort her child for any reason at all, then surely ending the life of a disabled child is reason enough. But when the value of a child’s life is determined by whether it is wanted by its parents or is physically flawless, our law must look the way it does today in Oregon. And, left unchecked, these laws will shape a culture that will one day look like Iceland — where children with Down syndrome are barely permitted to exist at all.
— Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.