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Washington Post Op-Ed Defends Right to Abort Fetuses with Down Syndrome

A pregnant woman receives an ultrasound. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Washington Post has just published its latest opinion piece defending the right to abort children diagnosed with Down syndrome.

The op-ed — written by journalism professor Tim J. McGuire — follows on the heels of two pieces by Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, the first of which was entitled, “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.” Marcus doubled down a week later, insisting that many readers quietly agreed with her view, as if their agreement absolved her from defending against substantive intellectual challenges.

This latest Post piece employs a different rhetorical strategy. Unlike Marcus, who says she doesn’t believe fetuses are human beings with a right to life, McGuire spends almost the entirety of his op-ed arguing that it’s wrong to abort a child as a result of its deformities. Here’s part of his argument:

I think it’s time we talked frankly about leaving countless deformed and genetically challenged babies on the mountainside. And that’s exactly what we’re doing by aborting 67 percent of our diagnosed children. How is this abortion based on medical diagnosis any different from leaving deformed children to the wolves?

It’s not, the rest of his piece argues. On that, McGuire and I agree completely. There’s something profoundly disturbing about killing unborn children who are unwanted as the result of arbitrary genetic characteristics. And yet his very next paragraph devolves into the mindless defense of abortion so common on the left:

It should stop, yet I categorically oppose any bills that force people to keep Down syndrome babies. I find it reprehensible and morally dangerous that our governments would pretend to know best what choice parents should make. I oppose abortion, but I believe the state must stay out of that choice.

As a conservative who favors limited government, I understand the sentiment underlying McGuire’s point. There are all kinds of choices — even wrong ones — that the state should not dictate to its citizens. But if you believe, as McGuire does, that the choice in question is one to kill an innocent human being, it is impossible to argue that the government has absolutely no interest in protecting that human life.

This is one of the primary intellectual deficiencies in both of Marcus’s columns on this topic, and it appears again here in McGuire’s. Abortion-rights proponents refer constantly to the all-important “right to choose,” but they consistently ignore or deny that the choice being protected is the choice to kill an innocent. If the government isn’t permitted to limit the right to kill an innocent human being, how can the state possibly justify any other infringement on its citizens choices?

McGuire’s position on this point is even less defensible than that of the abortion-rights supporter, because he spends the entire rest of his piece arguing that this type of selective abortion is wrong, even dangerous. Yet he brushes off attempts to regulate such abortions with no more than a paragraph of lip service to government non-interference.

In his conclusion, McGuire writes, “We enter dangerous ground when we decide some gifts are worth exalting and others are worth destroying. . . . Every child makes the world more complete. And no child deserves to be left on the mountainside.”

Yet lurking in the middle of his article is one short paragraph explicitly arguing that, if a mother wishes to leave her child on the metaphorical mountainside, that very well might be the best choice for her. Not only that, but McGuire says it’d be “reprehensible and morally dangerous” for the government to interfere, and in doing so protect the dignity and value of every human life by outlawing arbitrary murder of these unwanted fetuses.

McGuire joins many others in defending the right to abortion. But, given that the majority of his article identifies problems with selectively aborting fetuses with Down syndrome, his logic is even more seriously flawed.

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