Needed - an Abortion Debate
by Jonathan Rosenblum
March 23, 2006
South Dakota recently passed a law banning all abortions. Similar legislation is in the pipeline in six other states.
South Dakota legislators hope to force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Most legal observers doubt that the Supreme Court will reverse Roe v. Wade, or even grant certiorari. But, the South Dakota statute will surely thrust the contentious abortion debate to the fore in the United States.
Israel is badly in need of just such a debate.
Tel Aviv University doctoral researcher Yael Hashiloni-Dolev did a comparative study of genetic counseling of expectant mothers in Israel and other Western countries. She found that Israel leads the world in pre-natal testing, and that women are routinely encouraged to abort where there is the slightest chance of even the smallest birth defect. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of annual abortions in Israel because of physical defects jumped 20%. Nearly ten such abortions are performed daily.
It is not uncommon for an Israeli woman to undergo ten pre-natal tests, plus four ultrasounds, and amniocentesis. A woman who does not undergo extensive pre-natal testing is considered primitive. Yet, according to Hashiloni-Dolev, most of the tests performed in Israel are not even available in Germany.
We have become a nation of unreflective technological determinists: If the technology exists, it must be used, and the results of the testing must be acted upon. Whereas only 13% of American and 23% of German genetic counselors would push a woman carrying a baby with Downs Syndrome to abort, 73% of Israeli genetic counselors would. As one counselor told Hashiloni-Dolev, "I don’t think that people like you and me should have to pay for the retarded children the religious have."
Perhaps it is not accidental that Peter Singer, the Princeton "ethicist", who would provide parents with a one-month grace period after birth to decide whether their baby should live or be put to sleep, is one of the tribe, the son of Austrian Jewish parents who fled Hitler.
Formerly procreation combined in one act, "the pleasure of sex, the longing for union, the communication of the loving embrace and the deep-seated and only partly articulate desire for children," in the words of University of Chicago Professor Leon Kass. Today, by contrast, babies have been transformed into commodities to be manufactured, and reproduction into a competition to produce the most perfect baby.
Parenthood is no longer an act of self-transcendence, but a matter of fashioning a child who will satisfy all his or her parents’ vicarious needs. Pity the poor child in whose creation so much technology has been employed and in whose achievements so much parental hope has been placed.
And the greatest tragedy of all is that this proliferation of genetic testing and easy acceptance of abortion of non-perfect infants in Israel has been accompanied by no significant public ethical debate. It’s about time that one took place.
Related Topics: Israeli Society
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