The slogan, Every Child a Wanted Child, always gave off a eugenic chill, implying that unwanted children weren’t fit for life. But it didn’t quite spell out what makes a child unwanted. Were the meaning of the slogan unpackaged and given more eugenic precision, it would read: Every Child a Perfect Child.
Imperfect children aren’t wanted children — this is the logical terminus of a society obsessed with choice and control, and the culture is hurtling towards it. If you doubt this, note the growing impatience with imperfection in children, both unborn and born, that increasingly dominates the culture of reproductive choice and control. The New York Times ran a story earlier this week titled, “Ugly Children May Get Parental Short Shrift.” The article doesn’t even mention the shortest shrift they receive: eugenic abortion. To the extent that the numbers are known, most unborn children deemed ugly by virtue of a disability detected through prenatal screening are aborted, and research surveys have shown that many parents will choose abortion once doctors become able to diagnose nothing more than “obesity” prenatally.
The every-child-a-wanted-child sloganeers ludicrously promised a culture of greater sensitivity to children. What it actually produced was a culture of habitual cruelty toward children, mainstreaming abuse against them, starting in the womb, and implicitly conferred upon parents a right to abuse or neglect children who didn’t live up to expectations or proved inconvenient in some way. That child abuse rates climbed after the legalization of abortion is no accident. According to pro-life writer Karen Gordon, after “New York legalized abortion in 1968, it experienced a rise in child abuse of 44% per year. Washington state legalized abortion in 1970. Within 28 months, incidents of child abuse in Seattle, its largest city, rose 379%.”
If unwanted children could be abused before birth, why not afterwards too? One child abuse expert, Philip Ney, had the guts to say that in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in 1979: “When we are so careful not to tamper with the delicate balances of plant and animal ecology, one wonders why we do not at least study the far-reaching effects that killing unborn infants may be having on the human species. We may have disrupted a very delicate balance….The abortion of unborn infants may diminish the value of all children. When the destruction of the unborn is socially sanctioned and even applauded, children cannot have much value.”
The every-child-a-wanted-child concept elevated the rejection of imperfect children to an enlightened choice, and pumped life into a discredited eugenics movement. That eugenics drive has brought American society to the threshold of the total eugenics of designer children. Germline genetic engineering, which allows scientists to manipulate the genes of an embryo, has begun, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which gives scientists the power to select the most desirable embryos for in vitro fertilization, is becoming more common.
“These are grown-up people expressing their reproductive choices. We cherish that in the United States,” Jeffrey Steinberg, a director of fertility clinics that use PGD, has said. “These people are really happy when they get what they want.”
PGD is so dubious most decadent European countries won’t even touch it. But in America, where Roe v. Wade has given fertility merchants total immunity, PGD is used for “family balancing,” as the Washington Post put it in a story last year. This means parents are using PGD for the most basic form of design: to screen out either male or female embryos. “If you ask couples coming in what they will do if they get the wrong sex, these couples say very frankly they will terminate the pregnancy,” Mark Sauer, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at Columbia University, told the Post.
For all of this culture’s talk about “unconditional love” of children, its tolerance of them is baldly conditional: It permits them to live on the condition that they possess wanted traits. It is not a culture of love but a culture of control, and woe to the children who don’t meet its solipsistic expectations.