Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eugenics: In the Modern Age

Eugenics [yoo-jen-iks]- noun: the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of human species or a human population, especially by such means such as discouraging reproductions of persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive traits)

When you read the above definition, I'm wondering if you are thinking the same thing that I am. My first thought is the holocaust where experimentation in genetics particularly the desirability of people with blond hair and blue eyes. Nazi's went so far in their preservation of an Aryan nation (incidentally not all Germans are blond) that they kidnapped Polish children with blond hair and blue eyes, destroyed documentation to support their Polish heritage, and had them adopted by German families.

Although some people may think of Margret Sanger, who was a follower of the then popular Eugenics movement. Side note: Alexander Graham Bell was also a eugenics supporter especially in regards to the deaf. She intended to "help" the poor by offering them means of birth control and encouraged the sterilization of the insane, Epileptics, criminals, and prostitutes. She was the founder of the American Birth Control League now called Planned Parenthood.

But honestly eugenics isn't limited to the pro-abortion crowd. No, it's infiltrated our medical system and our government.

My first encounter with eugenics was during my first pregnancy. The nurse brought over some forms for me to fill out authorizing blood tests for genetic abnormalities. Thinking this was standard procedure for the overall prenatal care of my infant, I signed away. Later my blood was drawn and then the heart wrenching began with a phone call. "Based on your child's tests we believe that he is at an increased risk of Down's" was the message. I asked for more information even going down to the obs office to demand an explanation. "I don't understand much myself. All I know is that this just indicates a risk but doesn't mean your child has Down's. You'll need genetic counseling," was all the nurse could explain. "You need to go to genetic counseling" for a better explanation was repeated like a mantra. So we went.

We went to a different clinic where a geneticist sat behind a desk and showed us charts and risks. I remember hearing her clearly ask why we had only been sent for Downs and not cystic fibrosis as she riffled through our chart. She glanced down and offered no explanation. I found out later that my husband carries the gene and I don't. This basically means that every time my children are born and are given the state mandatory heel prick (another eugenics measure in disguise), if this heel test shows they inherited the gene from dad, the pediatricians are going to insist on a sweat test. Even if I tell them that I don't have the gene, as a "precaution" they are going to insist on the test. It's not a fun test. You can look at the post about it.

Anyways...she gave us the risk factor and shoved a bunch of numbers down our throats. Then she finished by saying that the only way to know what the baby has for sure is to have an amniocentesis, which carries it's own risks. I opted to look at a sonogram where the baby looked otherwise normal. She said she recommended the amnio because it would give us "options." I looked at her in the face and said "we don't have options." She dodged that like a bullet and went into pregnancy risks and risks of health to the baby and whatnot.

Later the pediatrician assured me that a babies in utero with Down's don't really need amnio. She says those tests only tell you what you want to know sooner. Treatments for digestive and heart issues that are common among children with Down's don't occur until after the child is born. And she said that children with Down's are very sweet people. It seems that eugenics has made people with Down's out to be burden's which doesn't surprise me given how society in general looks at "normal" children. She wasn't concerned when we met her while still pregnant. She treated Down's like it wasn't a curse or a death sentence.

And over time and after much investigating, I became accustomed to the idea that my child may have Down's and what that would mean. There was a possibility of health issues which none had so far shown up on the sonogram. There was the possibility of mental retardation, but there are so many early education programs in our state I knew that the baby would be helped from an early age so that he could potentially go to a normal school depending on the severity. I read books on breastfeeding and knew my hospital had a support group because I knew that children with Down's sometimes have difficulty with latching. I prepared myself mentally so that I knew what needed to be done for my child's best interests.

The next sonogram the tech mentioned the test like we flunked something. "Never, mind," I thought, "we have plans for you regardless. I mean there's a higher risk for autism and there's no genetic test for that either." Autism is harder than Down's. Down's people are sweet and sociable. They want to please. At the delivery while putting in information they mentioned the test again. "No worries. We'll see what happens."

And HB was born with blond hair and no Down's syndrome. So much for genetic testing, counseling, and "options." I've learned since that those tests don't mean much. There are many false positives as false negatives where people aren't prepared and have a child with Down's without warning from the tests.

With this pregnancy, I got the same papers. I smiled at the nurse and signed "no." "There's no point in the cf one," I told the nurse. "I already know that I don't carry the gene." She shrugged. "Less for you to have to do."

What bothers me about this whole episode is the fact that we look down upon people with genetic defects with disdain. People are living longer and are thriving yet we abort babies with Down syndrome to the point that statistically there should be more people with the disease but there are so few. And so when "normal" children see them in a classroom they think these children are "Asian." It's sweet but not the truth.

Incidentally the United States tracks these "genetic defects." My county health department knows that my child carries the gene for cystic fibrosis. They have it filed away like it's something horrible to have. Yet, 30 percent of Caucasians carry the gene and it's rarely expressed because even if two people marry who have the gene, it's only a 25 percent chance of it being passed on. While I think it's great to know for health reasons, I get a little upset that people are being treated like less than over something they have little control of. Are we headed to world of designer babies? Is the US going to turn into the movie Gattaca?

What about instances of incest? Children from forced incest situations (rape and whatnot) don't have genetic abnormalities or even appear to be different from other people. In order for genetic abnormalities to show up in incestuous relationships there has to be additional cross breeding. For example, dad+daughter= son and son+daughter= genetic problems. So while it's "gross" it certainly doesn't warrant aborting the child since there won't be anything genetically wrong with them. Yet society has scared and pushed for abortion because it's foreign and frightening to us. Women have testified that abortion makes them feel worse not better about what happened to them.

But this is with babies what about marriages. What about the blood test for marriage? The test is designed to test for syphilis, which can be tested by any doctor. I'm not sure why many states require the blood test any longer. In Arizona, we were required to sign an affidavit stating that we, as far as we knew, were not related. That's it. People in other states have the "option" to test for genetic abnormalities before marriage. This reminds me of my "option" for prenatal genetic tests. What happens if both potential mates discover they have are carries of a genetic abnormality? Do they not get married? Do they decide not to go ahead and have children? In this country, are we trying to eliminate the genetic abnormality through breeding practices, scaring people into not having children, or trying to find treatments for genetic diseases?

I suppose my point in this whole tirade is that eugenics is not dead. It thrives very well and scares parents into aborting children who could otherwise be contributing members of society. I wish that people in the community would applaud women and men who choose to have their children, genetic abnormalities and all, instead of making comments (that I saw posted somewhere) like "Oh, your baby has Downs. My sister's baby had Downs, but she chose to have an abortion."

So I ask you the next time you see a child with an obvious genetic defect, smile at them. Because they decided that every life is worth living and the eugenics program in this country is at best a human breeding program or at worse murder.

1 comment:

  1. This whole thing is sad... Esp considering those tests have a high false positive rate. I saw a post while pg w/ ZJ about someone who aborted only to find out her DS child didn't have DS. We refused the test w/ him too and will with any future children. Its not worth the worry...

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