30 March 2007 Vol. 9 / No. 12
When we think of designer children, we think of an effort to breed supermen. But there is a new and even more disturbing trend: Designer children designed to be disabled.
Steven W. Mosher
A Note on the Future: Deliberately Disabling Children
For a number of years now, a great deal of discussion has taken place among scientists and in the popular media about the genetic engineering of children. Will it soon be possible, for prices widely affordable at least to the upper-middle class, to guarantee that children have a high IQ, or excellent athletic ability, or be over 6 feet tall, or have blond hair and blue eyes? Is it right to commodify children in this way, and have parents choosing options as they do with cars? And wouldn’t it be boring to live in a world someday where almost everyone is extremely intelligent and beautiful? Variety, or even the politically correct term “diversity,” is the spice of life.
But not everyone wants what seemed to be the three genetic engineering options: refrain and let nature take her course, attempt to repair genetic diseases but otherwise let well enough alone, or select positive qualities in children. There are parents who are deliberately ensuring that their children are born with disabilities, from deafness to dwarfism. A fourth option—inflicting permanent disabling conditions on children—is now being used.
For some years now, some deaf parents have refused to allow their deaf children to receive cochlear implants that would enable them to hear. The devices must often be implanted when children are very young in order to work, so such parents condemn their children to a lifetime of deafness when they could have been able to hear.
Some dwarf couples are even using in-vitro fertilization to create embryos in the lab, then killing the normal ones and implanting the ones with the dwarfness gene to ensure having a dwarf child.
The standard Marxist-Frankfurt School arguments are used to justify such acts by Deaf Life magazine and other radical organizations representing some disabled people. They argue that deaf folks, dwarfs, and others aren’t disabled at all, just different. Deaf Life types complain of an “oralist” culture that discriminates against deaf people who use sign language. “Oralism” oppresses the deaf, you see, just as racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other isms ad nauseam oppress others.
In a Jan. 21, 2007 story, the Associated Press reported that, of American clinics it surveyed that perform embryo screening, 3% admit to screening in favor of disabilities. This story contains perhaps the most revealing statement on the question. It was uttered by a dwarf woman angered that anyone would dare suggest that deliberating inflicting permanent suffering on children is bad:
“Cara Reynolds of Collingswood, N.J., who considered embryo screening but now plans to adopt a dwarf baby, is outraged by the criticism. ‘You cannot tell me that I cannot have a child who’s going to look like me,’ Reynolds said. ‘It’s just unbelievably presumptuous and they’re playing God.’”
Funny to think that it’s playing God to say it’s wrong to use high-tech techniques to choose certain qualities in children rather than letting nature take her course. Isn’t intervening to choose a major genetic quality in your child much more like playing God?
First abortion, then fetal and embryonic tissue experimentation, and on the anti-child bandwagon goes. Some kill children because they have disabilities, others choose to inflict suffering that only God could possibly have a right to allow. What hate there is in the world.
I will let others comment upon the dark spiritual impulses that must be behind a parent’s decision to do such a thing. But I will ask this: How relativistic can a society become and still be worthy of preserving?
Things must change soon. With such degeneration, and such low birthrates in this anti-child age, things must change or we shall perish. I am banking on the former.
Joseph A. D’Agostino is the outgoing Vice President for Communications at PRI.