My internet was mostly musical this week. Highlights: The Last Child of Down Syndrome, a “liaison with other human beings,” the sublimity of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, playlists of the musical south, Jazmine Sullivan’s still in an indoor forest, Megan Thee Stallion’s debut album, Tayla Parx’s sophomore album, Félix González-Torres, CNN’s election week, and new data of women mentoring women in STEM.
As prenatal genetic testing becomes increasingly common, more and more parents are choosing to abort fetuses with genetic conditions, which has some complex implications. “Down syndrome is frequently called the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for selective reproduction,” writes Sarah Zhang. “It was one of the first genetic conditions to be routinely screened for in utero, and it remains the most morally troubling because it is among the least severe. It is very much compatible with life—even a long, happy life.” Denmark began offering pregnant women prenatal screening for Down syndrome in 2004, and “[n]early all expecting mothers choose to take the test; of those who get a Down syndrome diagnosis, more than 95 percent choose to abort.” Denmark was one of the first countries to offer such screening and only 18 people with Down syndrome were born in the country last year.
This subject matter, prenatal genetic testing to screen for disabilities, is a contentious topic and hard to write about. I learned a lot, especially about Denmark, through this article by Zhang, but one primary critique I and others have of this article is the lack of perspectives from actual people with Down syndrome or other genetic conditions. Writer Emily Ladau, who is genetically disabled, has an informative Twitter thread presenting this argument, emphasizing “if an entire feature article was written about the prospect of genetically testing people like me out of existence, I’d want my stake (and that of others with my disability) in that conversation not just recognized, but centralized.”