op-ed

Hey Ruth Marcus: A Death Wish Does Not Represent Compassionate Public Policy

It goes beyond a defeatist attitude to tell someone that the answer to all their perceived problems is their death. Yet that is exactly the attitude found in the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus column titled, “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.” Her opposition to legislative efforts aimed at ending the discrimination against people with Down syndrome by prohibiting abortions targeting them is more than misguided. She ignores not only the humanity of those involved, but also the absolute need for public policy that asserts the worth of all citizens. I know what it’s like to have people – even well meaning people – tell me that my pre-born child should die. It’s something I wish would never happen in a civilized society.

As a mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, I know firsthand the pain of listening to hopeless predictions about my children’s future. My husband and I have had to endure the criticisms of those who said that my children should not have been born. But a death wish does not represent compassionate public policy or a humane response to news that a child’s abilities of life expectancy may be different from his or her siblings. Ruth Marcus’ column that advocates for ending the lives of people whom she perceives as less worthy is the kind of thinking that permeates the eugenics movement, which advocates for the deaths of all who are considered less than others.

Our lives do not have value based on someone else’s comfort level. Human life is worthy of protection and valued first and foremost by the one experiencing it, not by a detached observer. Its value is intrinsic, not up for a vote.

Equally troubling is the falsehood about abortion’s impact that she communicates when she writes, “I can say without hesitation that, tragic as it would have felt and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.”

Moving on is not so simple.

Working with women daily who have experienced abortion, I say unequivocally that this is not a minor, forgettable procedure. Not only can it severely impact a woman’s physical health, women’s emotional, mental and even spiritual health suffers a terrible blow from the impact of abortion. It’s time that we were honest about the toll of abortion on women and their pre-born infants, as both suffer when abortion is sold as a choice easily made.

But Ruth and I have one area in which we are in agreement – our recognition that abortion is too often advanced casually and without inviting thought about the irrevocable and unfixable nature of the act of ending a preborn life. Some choices once made can’t be unmade.

Marcus writes, “Think about it. Can it be that women have more constitutional freedom to choose to terminate their pregnancies on a whim than for the reason that the fetus has Down syndrome?”

Ending a life should be a matter of extreme caution, with time for reflection and an understanding of the significance of such a deadly decision with life long consequences. Interestingly, the abortion industry consistently fights any regulation to require a waiting period between a conversation about abortion and the procedure itself. Right now, Iowa pro-life advocates are fighting for their reflection period, as have Missouri and Tennessee advocates over the last year.


In fact, a study by the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, found that nearly three in four women said they had been pressured to end their pregnancies. Feeling forced into a quick abortion decision is a common story that we hear in the pro-life movement – and that is illegal. So does this mean Ruth and other abortion advocates want to see more counseling and nationwide waiting policies to make sure that women are not being pressured into a procedure they don’t want? I doubt it.

It’s interesting that the timing of this column comes as Gerber made the extraordinary and long-overdue decision to highlight a beautiful one-year-old with Down syndrome as the Gerber baby for this generation. Lucas Warren’s smiling face is a reminder to us all that life is a beautiful choice. Hopefully, as shoppers see the light shining in his eyes as they go to grocery stores across the country they also will conclude that Ruth Marcus’ assessment about his worth is not only wrong – it’s a choice no one should make. Our support for those with difficulties should include helping them succeed, not sending them to their graves.

Kristan Hawkins, @KristanHawkins, is president of Students for Life of America, which has more than 1,200 chapters on college and high school campuses in all 50 states.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.