K-Lo in the Corner links to this powerful piece in the Washington Post by Patricia Bauer which discusses how the culture of prenatal testing has not only allowed parents to abort children based solely on disabilities but it has encouraged them to do so. Her daughter, Margaret, is person with Down syndrome.
"To them, Margaret falls into the category of avoidable human suffering. At best, a tragic mistake. At worst, a living embodiment of the pro-life movement. Less than human. A drain on society. That someone I love is regarded this way is unspeakably painful to me....
In ancient Greece, babies with disabilities were left out in the elements to die. We in America rely on prenatal genetic testing to make our selections in private, but the effect on society is the same....
What I don't understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value. I'd like to think that it's time to put that particular piece of baggage on the table and talk about it, but I'm not optimistic. People want what they want: a perfect baby, a perfect life. To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on.....
I have to think that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families. The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have."
When as a society we see human beings as being valuable not based on what they are intrinsically but based on their instrumental abilities (what they can do and how well they can do it), the obvious results are that human beings with less instrumental capacities, those who are disabled, elderly, etc., will be seen as not only less worthy of life but also as a "drain" on those of us who have greater instrumental abilities.
Women in unplanned pregnancies will often say that abortion is the best thing for the child they are carrying because at this point in their lives they cannot support a child in all the ways that they would prefer. Is this because they're heartless hags? No. Part of it seems to be an attempt to convince themselves that what they are about to do or did do is right. But how can they think that killing a child is better than letting the child live in less-than-optimal circumstances? This where the influence of "human beings are instrumentally valuable" thought might take effect.
"If I'm not able to raise my child in optimal circumstances, then she won't develop the skills she needs to survive and excel in the world. She'll eek by and therefore suffer through life because I got pregnant before I was in a place where I could raise her in a way that she could succeed and go places."
In other words, she might never be valuable in the eyes of a society that places high levels of value on individuals with larger instrumental abilities and openly views some human beings with less instrumental abilities as "less than human."