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Backdoor Eugenics


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  • With all of the recent biomedical advances, a controversy has arisen that is closely related to the neurodiversity movement.

    The commonality of genetic counseling before or during pregnancy may create a choice between a “normal” child and a “disabled” one.

    Although this is not outright eugenics-style elimination of a segment of the population, this could result in a hushed, "backdoor" form of eugenics in which parents are able to choose whether to bear a child with a disability.

    In a utilitarian society, there is no choice: disabled people are undeniably “more costly and less productive.”

    Sympathetic parents also worry that a disabled child would be subject to social isolation and limited opportunities.

    Whether a choice about disability status should be made based on any grounds is debated between supporters of the biomedical perspective and supporters of neurodiversity.

    Supporters of the biomedical perspective believe that citizens have the responsibility to improve the health and welfare of their societies.

    Embryo selection has been proposed as a way to improve the health of society.

    Since those with so-called “low-functioning” autism are a drain on resources and may not be able to enjoy a “normal” life, genetic screening could be used as a preventative measure.

    On the other hand, supporters of neurodiversity see embryo selection as a threat to their way of life and even a personal attack, perceiving that proponents of genetic screening would rather neurodiverse people had not been born.

    Neurodiversity activists see the tendency toward embryo selection as a devaluation of those with autism and related conditions.

    Genetic screening is on the rise with parents-to-be. People with disabilities already fear they will be increasingly economically, socially, and politically marginalized due to this potential move to eliminate disabilities from the population.


    January 3, 2010