Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party A Revolution of the Heart
by Kyle Herrington
One of the most important concepts I have encountered is that of human-created systems of discrimination and unequal treatment. G.K. Chesterton showed how both capitalism and socialism distort our understanding of the human person. Recent events such as the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally have brought attitudes and polices that disenfranchise and persecute minorities to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. Progressive voices have been instrumental in pulling back the curtain on these discriminatory systems. Yet, progressive voices are silent on the systematic prejudice perpetuated by abortion.
Frank Stephens, a man with Down syndrome, recently testified before a congressional committee about research on Down syndrome. In his opening statement, Stephens argued for the necessity of research on Down syndrome. He refused to be silent about the epidemic of abortions which take place after a Down diagnosis. “I completely understand that the people pushing that particular ‘final solution’ are saying that people like me should not exist. They are saying that we have too little value to exist. That view is deeply prejudiced by an outdated idea of life with Down syndrome.” (1)
Unfortunately, this “outdated view” is not innocuous. As Stephens mentioned, places like Iceland, Denmark, and South Korea are grotesquely stating they will eliminate Down syndrome in the coming decades. By “eliminate Down syndrome” they mean eliminating people with Down syndrome via prenatal diagnosis and abortion. Nearly 100% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome in Iceland are aborted and about 67% of US children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome are aborted (2). The right to abort fetuses diagnosed with “fetal anomalies” has been a key talking point in the debates around the potential repeal of the 8th Amendment in Ireland.
Stephens believed the most important thing he could say to the Congressmen and Congresswomen was that his life is important: “If you take nothing else away from today’s hearing, please remember this, I AM A MAN WITH DOWN SYNDROME AND MY LIFE IS WORTH LIVING” (emphasis in the record). The promotion and acceptance of abortion as “taking care” of people with Down syndrome and other fetal diagnoses perpetuates ableism. Mothers and fathers who receive the news that their child has a condition like Down syndrome or a medical condition that will result in the child losing their life during or shortly after pregnancy deserve robust support from their families, doctors, and communities. (If you or someone you know has received a potentially fatal pre-natal diagnosis for their child, I encourage you to reach out to Alexandra’s House. If you are able, please also think about supporting this charity’s amazing work.)
Everybody’s life is worth living, but legal abortion perpetuates a system that says otherwise. Legal abortion says that every life is only contingently worth living: If you are conceived in a violent act, your life may not be valuable. If you are conceived at the wrong time, your life is only potentially worth caring about. You're less than equal; you may even be an inconvenience. The system of abortion legalized by Roe v. Wade and solidified in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (3) makes the value of a child’s life contingent on the “liberty…to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
In other words, a system has been created to disenfranchise those who cannot speak for themselves and the disenfranchisement is death. How much more ableist can it get?
Both major American political parties and many powerful interests tacitly support this system. Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, recently tweeted that birth control is good for business and is encouraging “brands” and businesses to protect birth control. Birth control is good for business because less children mean less time employees are off work. I am sure Richards believes abortion is good for businesses (it surely is for her business). The attitude behind legalized abortion is utilitarian and built off the elimination of the defenseless in society, especially children with a medical diagnosis in utero. This isn’t surprising given that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a eugenicist and considered “[t]he most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” (4)
Legalized abortion is founded upon a system of eugenics that dealt with poverty and disease by killing people. No other institution would get such cover by progressives and powerful interests. Why is the logic of dehumanizing people allowed to be perpetuated? How many people have to be murdered and traumatized before the US wakes up to the system of oppression sold as a system of freedom?
According to the logic of abortion, the bodies of those who are deemed expendable or not suitable for life are violently extinguished. It is necessary to create a culture that is honest with itself about the unacceptable system it has enshrined in law. But that is not good enough. Only a culture that replaces a discriminatory system is one that respects all people’s lives as worth living. Every level of society should promote and support this principle. The goal is a lofty one, but we should not waver in our commitment to solidarity with the least amongst us because this is a goal worth supporting, working towards, and voting for, because as Frank Stephens reminds us, “Every life is worth living.”
(1) Watch the whole statement here: https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4687834/frank-stephens-opening-statement-syndrome or read the transcript here: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP07/20171025/106526/HHRG-115-AP07-Wstate-StephensF-20171025.pdf
(3) Majority opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
(4) Margaret Sanger, “Chapter 5: The Wickedness of Creating Large Families” in her book Woman and the New Race. http://www.bartleby.com/1013/5.html
Tara Ann Thieke