The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Wrongful birth lawsuits are wrongful

Photo of Wesley J. Smith
Wesley J. Smith
Senior Fellow, The Discovery Institute

First, it was promotion of “after-birth abortion.” Now, just as that hubbub dies down, a Portland jury has ruled that Kalanit Levy should never have been born. More precisely, the jury awarded $2.9 million to Kalanit’s parents for what is sometimes called “wrongful birth.”

Kalanit has Down syndrome, which was not detected by doctors during pre-natal testing. Deborah Levy testified that while she dearly loves her daughter, had she known the truth about her condition, she would have had an abortion. So, the doctors and hospital must now pay because their medical negligence permitted her to see the light of day.

Wrongful birth lawsuits are merely the newest front in the ongoing eugenic search-and-destroy mission aimed at wiping people with Down syndrome off the face of the earth. What a bitter irony. We live in a society in which the ethical commitment to universal human equality may be at an all-time high. Americans heartily cheer on the participants in the Special Olympics. The Americans with Disabilities Act enjoys widespread support. Yet, many support targeting fetuses with Down syndrome and other genetic conditions for elimination in the womb. Indeed, studies show that about 90% of fetuses testing positive for conditions such as Down syndrome or dwarfism are now aborted.

Those who make a different choice may face societal opprobrium. I am convinced, for example, that the birth of Trig Palin to Sarah and Todd Palin was a primary reason for the visceral hatred of the former Alaska governor by some on the far-left political flank. Thus, the popular leftist blog Wonkette toxically opined:

Today is the day we come together to celebrate the snowbilly grifter’s magical journey from Texas to Alaska to deliver to America the great gentleman scholar Trig Palin. …What’s he dreaming about? Nothing. He’s retarded.

Wonkette was far from alone in taking this bigoted tack. Even mainstream political types made hateful statements about the birth of Trig. Thus, after Palin was added to the Republican presidential ticket in 2008, South Carolina’s Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler sniffed that Palin’s “primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.” (Wonkette and Fowler later apologized.)

The efforts of many medical organizations to increase pre-natal testing for Down syndrome may not express the same kind of open hostility toward the genetically disabled — and indeed, such procedures can be very valuable to help parents prepare, as the Palins attested. But the ethical use of these tests may depend on the values of those “counseling” the parents about how to react to the results.

Too often, abortion is pushed as the preferred option. Indeed, after studies showed that many genetic counselors promoted the abortion of Down fetuses, the late Senator Edward Kennedy — cobalt blue politically — joined with the politically ruby red former Senator (and now Kansas Governor) Sam Brownback, to pass the  “Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act.” The law, signed into law by President Bush in 2008, requires neutrality in pre-natal genetic counseling so as to help “parents and the public shift from viewing disability as simply a medical diagnosis and tragedy to a more enlarged view that encompasses the full potential of children with disabilities and the experience of parenting a child with a disability.”