The intrinsic value of animals
In 2010 the European Union adopted a Directive aimed at the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The Directive rightfully acknowledges the intrinsic value of animals and the importance of their protection and welfare. It lays down standards for care and protection from lasting harm. It prohibits methods that cause animals severe pain, suffering and distress. In 2016 the scope of this Directive widens to include foetal forms of mammals. There is scientific evidence shows that procedures carried out on animal fetuses can result in pain, suffering and distress, which -understandably- will negatively affect their subsequent development.
Equalize foetal rights
When Lord Shinkwin recently proposed to align the legal abortion limit for medical (selective) abortions with the limit for 'regular' abortion, a petition immediately popped up in protest. It's main message being "No one has the right to interfere in a woman's decision about her own body.”. Apparently, research has set out to prove that the human fetal mammal does not feel pain during the abortion process. That strikes me as odd.
A common late-term abortion method that is used is the dilation and evacuation (D&E) method. Dutch Professor obstetrics Frank Vandenbusche, tells in a National newspaper how that goes. While the Professor calls for a limitation because this procedure is exceptionally cruel for unborn babies, he pleads for an exception when selective abortion for disability is concerned.
Another method used in hospitals is abortion-birth, often after Down syndrome or another disability is detected. In April 2016 the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) exposed the reality of these second and third trimester abortions before the European Parlement. Because pregnancy is in an advanced stage many of these babies are born alive. In some European countries babies are then injected with a lethal substance or drowned, while in other countries they are simply left to die, without medical attention. Cases have been documented were aborted babies, after three days of struggling, eventually die.
A baffling paradox of rights
The combination of granting more rights to animals, while giving less to humans, is not as unusual as it at first glance appears. However horrible the Nazis treated their fellow human beings, was inversely proportional to the way they treated animals. This baffling paradox was especially evident in several concentration camps where the Nazis forced the prisoners to take care of giant Angora rabbits. Known as the Angora Project, the SS, under the direction of Heinrich Himmler, employed thousands of prisoners to grow these rabbits for their fur. What made this especially cruel was the fact that the Nazis treated the rabbits infinitely better than the prisoners. While millions of prisoners starved or died inside the camps, the rabbits enjoyed their own spacious pens, complete with nutritious meals every day.
Famous animal rights activist and philosopher Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse write "We think that some babies with serious handicaps should be killed.”, in their joint book "Should the baby live?". Peter Singer also wants to give a lethal injection to less handicapped babies with Down syndrome, spina bifida or blood disease. “The disabled baby has less self-awareness than a pig, cow or chicken. The doctrine of the sanctity of life has never prevented man from killing pigs, cows or chickens; so man can also kill disabled babies. Who disagrees with that, discriminates against the animals that have more awareness than disabled babies.”
“The Problem of Handicapped Infants”
It is not Peter Singer’s goal to spare babies from physical suffering, as some of his supporters seem to think. According to him, the problem is rather that the disabled babies are ‘abnormal’ and don't have ‘good prospects’. According to Singer, people with Down syndrome cannot, like ‘normal’ people, play guitar, enjoy science fiction, learn a foreign language, talk to us about the latest Woody Allen movie, become a respectable athlete, basketball player or tennis player.
Peter Singer’s ‘practical ethics’ is, unfortunately, not a vague philosophy, but, as the word says, ideas focused on practical solutions to problems. Singer defines disabled people as a problem, instead of the social interaction with them. That makes his ideas dangerous. In the early 1990's Peter Singer was founder and President of the International Association of Bio-ethics (IAB), the worlds’ largest gathering of bioethics thought-leaders in the world. It’s aim, a ‘free, open and rational debate in bio-ethics.’
The IAB provides the content for issues like euthanasia, killing people or children considered incompetent, fetus and genetics research for the Dutch Health council and other comparable health institutions in 33 countries.
How is it possible that we are able to see the importance of protection and welfare of animals while still in the womb, yet remain blind to the humanity of (disabled) human babies inside women’s bodies? Why is the same science not used to protect unborn children and their mothers? Why does society rather let human fetuses and newborns suffer than discuss this political taboo. And finally; what does that say about us?
Renate Lindeman is mother of two wonderful children with Down, the spokesperson for Downpride and a representative of Saving Down syndrome. Downpride takes the Dutch screening policy to the UN, calling the government initiated extermination of people based on their genes a violation of their human rights.
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