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Choice devours itself--Routine "offer" of prenatal testing proposed as a legal mandate in France

A quick review of the way the "choice devours itself" phenomenon goes in the abortion arena:

1. The pro-choicer says that women should have the choice to abort or not to abort their unborn children, because they should be allowed to decide "what to do with their own bodies."

2. The pro-choicer believes that it's very important that women should have the choice to abort, specifically.

3. At some level, even if partially sub-consciously, the pro-choicer supports his contention that this choice is very important by imagining scenarios where abortion would be a reasonable, right, and responsible source.

4. The pro-choicer feels puzzled or even frustrated by the fact that some women do not have abortions even in these scenarios. Based on his own conclusion in #3, these women are being unreasonable or irresponsible.

5. The pro-choicer proposes that pressure be placed on women to abort in these scenarios, he excuses pressure that is being placed on women to abort, or he deceives himself by suppressing or ignoring evidence that women are being pressured to abort. Thus choice is no longer such a great thing or such an important thing to safeguard if the choice is not to abort.

I want to stress, again, that none of these steps are logically required. They represent a psychological and sociological trend that is intriguing and that comes up often enough to be worth noting.

The latest manifestation comes from France, where lawmakers are considering a bill that would mandate that doctors "offer" all pregnant women prenatal testing for birth defects.

Yes, yes, I know, it's just "offering," though it isn't just "offering" to the doctors. So much for the consciences of the doctors. But let's face it: Systematizing this sort of "offering" is systematizing a conveyor belt with the abortion clinic on the far end for women whose children are diagnosed as defective. I would instance here this heartbreaking letter received by blogger Dr. Gerard Nadal from a mother who felt herself hustled into aborting her child with Trisomy-18:

I’ve aborted a very much wanted pregnancy in the second trimester due to Trisomy 18. I was never fond of the “choice” then, and I still suffer the consequence of that “choice” now. It saddens me to think that the medical community whose mantra is to do no harm has become so callused as to the dignity of life that they feel they can choose who deserves to live or die. The medical profession has become nothing more than a scripted flowchart of if this, then do that. Pity the child whose prenatal tests result in termination. Once upon a time I thought that “high risk obstetrics” meant that these guys must really know their stuff to be able to handle the “hard” cases. Only now do I realize that “high risk obstetrics” is nothing more than a fancy term for abortionists to hide behind.


I pray for the day that obstetricians present true options to a mother upon receiving an “incompatible with life” diagnosis. Don’t lead me down a scripted flowchart of “if this … then that … therefore terminate conclusion.”

Should the mother have stood firm against the "flow-chart" pressure? Yes, she should. But millstones are reserved for the doctors who took her along that path and gave her the distinct impression that no other options were open to her.

(If any readers have good French and want to read the proposed law, it's here. One of Wesley J. Smith's readers drew Smith's attention to the allegedly voluntary nature of the testing and says that the relevant section is Article 9. My French translation ability is confined to Babelfish. To me the selections I've translated from Article 9 seem a little unclear, but the impression I get is of an exceedingly streamlined and standardized process that involves taking all "high-risk" pregnancies and putting them through routine prenatal testing and counseling, with the woman's opportunities to get off the train present in theory but very plausibly not made clear to her.)

Comments (9)

Not quite there yet:

What is not forbidden is compulsory.

Consider positions 1-5. This makes the whole "choice devours itself" phenomenon seem much weaker than you described it in previous posts. Here, you describe a case where pro-choicers only want an "option" to abort in certain situations. But then they turn around and express disapproval of those who chose not to abort when confronted with the same situations. But this is just hypocrisy. I thought "choice devours itself" referred to the phenomenon of creeping liberal totalitarianism. A totalitarianism which advertizes itself as "choice" only to bare its fangs once it has gained enough political clout. i.e. First, we just want the "option" to abort in cases of rape or fetal abnormality. Now, the state will tell us that we *must* abort in cases of rape of fetal abnormality. First, we just want the "option" to euthanize ourselves when we are terminally ill. Then, the state will tell us that we *must* euthanize ourselves as a cost-saving measure when we are terminally ill. First, we just want the "option" to let gays marry each other. Then, we will tell your church that it *must* marry gays or else we will tax them into non-existence. And so on..

Well, usually I use it to describe cases where the very people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the "choice" end up being forced or strongly pressured into it, and nobody cares, or people lie about the force being exercised on them. So, for example, suppose that doctors are _really_ leaning on women to abort their Downs' babies. It looks like that is happening in some cases. But pro-"choicers" don't care. Or they say, in essence, "Pressure? What pressure? Don't know what you're talking about," even though by their own lights, they should be incredibly up in arms about this imposition on a "woman's rights."

Similarly, I put up a link a while back about a man who really hugely pressured his teenage daughter to abort. He literally "staged an intervention" with fifteen (or some such number) grown women to bully her into it. So in the end she said, "I guess I don't have a choice." Now, that's absolutely classic "choice devours itself." The sell-line was that the _girl_ in cases of teen pregnancy would benefit from this wonderful "choice." But the reality ends up being that she herself is forced into it, and liberals can't see a problem, or they even participate in it or initiate it (like the father). And I had at least one liberal reader on here saying, "Oh, maybe she just meant that she saw that this was the only sensible thing to do."

Completely blind. And frightening. This could certainly be described in terms like "creeping totalitarianism," because of step 5. The nice-guy liberal will turn a blind eye or even excuse that move from, "You may abort" to "You must abort," from "You may be euthanized" to "You must be euthanized," because he sees abortion and euthanasia as the only reasonable choice to make, so he moves psychologically from being all passionate about choice to being at least an enabler if not an outright cheerleader of the disappearance of choice *for the very people he originally was all concerned about*.

Perhaps the reason it seems more benign as I describe it here is just because I use the word "pressure." But "pressure" comes in many varieties, and of course in its extreme form is just simply coercion plain and simple, as in China.

This passage, from the linked FT article, just floored me:

"As a vocal opponent of abortion, Ms. Palin’s widely discussed decision to keep her baby, knowing he would be born with the condition, may inadvertently influence other women who may lack the necessary emotional and financial support to do the same, according to André Lalonde, executive vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Dr. Lalonde said that above all else, women must be free to choose, and that popular messages to the contrary could have detrimental effects on women and their families."

So women aren't "free to choose," unless "messages to the contrary" are censored? Is that where this is leading?

It's absolutely astonishing, isn't it, Steve?

Almost an Orwellian use of language. What the dickens does Dr. Lalonde mean by saying that Palin's having Trig is a "popular message to the contrary" regarding women's "freedom to choose"? It can't just be the _fact_that Palin is pro-life that is in view, it's somehow the combination of her being pro-life with her having actually, heaven forbid, made a "decision" not to abort her Down Syndrome child.

And the "detrimental effect" is apparently their _having_ the child when they lack the "emotional and financial support" that Lalonde thinks they need to make that decision a reasonable one.

Dr. Lalonde doesn't think Palin really "chose" to keep her baby, but rather was deranged by her religious beliefs. She was a victim of diminshed capacity. The only women who are truly free to choose are those who are willing to kill the baby.

Thanks, Bill, that helps me to understand...

Lydia--quick translation of the relevant points of article 9 II, if it is still of interest:

I) Prenatal testing includes all medical practices, among which obstetrical and fetal sonographies, aiming to detect "affectations of particular gravity" in utero.

II) Testing using medical biology and imagery methods allowing for computing the risk of a possibly pregnancy-altering abnormality are offered to all pregnant women.

III-IV speak of what the doctor must do if said "abnormality" is detected (second tests, support, info...)

V says that the doctor/midwife must get written consent for exams; legality of exams is decided by the Minister of health, who judges by danger for the woman/baby and gravity of tested condition.

VI) "Before giving written consent required in V or proceeding to exams discussed in II and IV, the pregnant woman must, unless she refuses, be informed of the objectives, the procedures, the risks, the limitations, the optional nature of these tests. In the case of sonographies, it must be made clear that the non-detection of anomalies is in no way a complete assurance of their absence in the fetus, and that suspicion of an anomaly may prove unfounded."

VII-VIII talk about where tests can be carried out.

What is most offensive about this, in my opinion, are both the distinction between embryo/fetus/child (read can be aborted/can't be aborted unless "abnormal"/a citizen to be protected in French law) and the systematic use of the word "anomaly", which is just incredibly demeaning.

Not to mention all the other incredibly wrong things in this law proposal--I really hope it does not pass, especially as France has been pretty conservative thus far on moral/ethical issues within the Western world.

By the way, recent quote by a socialist representative (can't find a link, sorry), on the fact that 96% (!!!!!!!!) of babies with (suspected) Down syndrome are murdered before birth--"what I don't understand is that there are still 4% left."

Thanks much for the help, Jane. This confirms what I had thought. It looks like this law demands that fetal testing for birth defects be turned into the default and the mainstream. It doesn't directly mandate that women must accept the exams, but it mandates the creation of an entire bureaucratic "tide" that will normalize such testing with the assumption of abortion if the child is found defective.

To some extent this is the situation now in America, because of fears of "wrongful birth" lawsuits. I believe some states don't allow wrongful birth lawsuits, but evidently because of the mere possibility, most doctors (all the ob-gyns I know of) demand that you sign a "release" if you refuse fetal testing so that they can prove that they offered it to you. So the default is that you will have the testing and "get on the conveyor belt" of tests, more tests, and then the "decision" of whether to "terminate."

It looks like France is trying to create this situation, this set of assumptions and defaults, instantaneously and by law.

Not good. And given the testimony of women whose doctors have really pressured them to abort, it will certainly result in many more abortions, including those in which even the mother's own consent is, shall we say, ambiguous.

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