According to the March 19 editorial “New fetal test guideline,” the test in question (which can detect Down’s syndrome) should be restricted because widespread use of the test could result in increased abortions. This ethical battle was settled long ago.
Japan was one of the first industrialized nations to legalize (or at least decriminalize) abortion and one of the earliest justifications for abortion was when there was a high chance of birthing a child with genetic disorders. (See The Japan Times’ Oct. 20, 2009, article titled “Abortion still key birth control.”)
Today, abortion is accepted for any reason — even one that is trivial such as the desire to maintain a certain lifestyle. Until we reach an era of full-blown genetic engineering of offspring, is it unethical to respect the wishes of mothers who don’t want to bring a permanently handicapped child into the world?
A strict utilitarian could argue that knowingly bringing such a child into the world is unethical, because that child will face increased suffering compared with a child that has no disabilities.
Knowledge should not be suppressed. The fetal test cited in the March 19 editorial should be available to anyone who is willing to pay for it. Contrary to the fears of “commercial exploitation,” making consumers pay for the test will guarantee that they will be informed. Who would pay for an expensive test without investing the time to understand what the results mean?
Also, the so-called concern over creating a society that excludes people with disabilities is a verbal sleight of hand. In the fight against infectious disease, we don’t label vaccinations as an effort to create a society that excludes people with smallpox.
The prevention of disease, infectious or genetic, is a laudable goal that advances the human species.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.