Sunday, September 24, 2006
On the Verge of Coersion: Intolerance for "Freaks" in Our Narcissistic Culture
"Please say it three times after me: preimplanatation genetic haplotyping. It is a technique for screening embryos for six thousand inherited diseases. Elizabeth R. Schiltz, a law professor, writes in Business Week : "From time to time, we are all confronted with the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us. I've always seen myself as a responsible, law-abiding citizen. I recycle, I vote, I don't drive a Hummer. But I've come to realize that many in the scientific community view me as grossly irresponsible. Indeed, in the words of Bob Edwards, the scientist who facilitated the birth of England's first test-tube baby, I am a 'sinner.' A recent book even branded me a 'genetic outlaw.' My transgression? I am one of the dwindling number of women who recieve a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and choose not to terminate our pregnancies. So when I hear about medical breakthroughs like preimplantation genetic haplotyping (PGH)- a new technique to screen embryos in the in vitro fertilization process for 6.000 inherited diseases- I can't help but see 6,000 new reasons that parents will be branded as sinners or made to feel socially irresponsible for bringing their children into this world." Prof. Schiltz is author of Defiant Birth: Women Who Resis Medical Eugenics. For many people, aborting a potentially "defective" child is a no-brainer. Such a child would be an intolerable burden upon the parents, upon the family, and upon society. Many others simply refuse prenatal screening altogether, or only for the purpose of discovering a problem that might be remedied in the womb. Their commitment is to accepting and loving the life entrusted to them. But Professor Schiltz is right: With the return of eugenics, such people are increasingly viewed as antisocial, if not "outlaws." The late Christopher Lasch wrote that we congratulate ourselves on our moral progress because we no longer tolerate "freak shows" at the county fair. The real reason, he said, is that we are fast becoming a society that has no tolerance of, no place for, freaks... "(See FIRST THINGS October 2006 issue in the "While We're At It" section for remainder.)My commentary:Terms like "genetic outlaw" suggest that the "legitimate violence" of law-enforcement be brought to bear against those who reject the genetic eugenics point of view. The use of the term "sinner" may suggest the social stigmatizing and branding with a Scarlet Letter those that find abhorrent the "not worth living" stamp eagerly applied to the mystery of nascent life at the first hint of extra inconvenience by a narcissitic, narrow and precarious communion of thieves.