Former Columbia University scholar fears Texas abortion law will lead to more babies with Down Syndrome


A former Columbia University scholar suggested late Wednesday night that Texas’ Heartbeat Act will lead to the birth of more babies with Down syndrome, increasing negative stereotypes about red states.

“You can’t screen for Down syndrome before about 10 weeks, and something like 80% of Down syndrome fetuses are aborted,” tweeted the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology president Richard Hanania. “If red states ban abortion, we could see a world where they have five times as many children with Down syndrome, and similar numbers for other disabilities.”

Hanania then suggested that red states could become “outliers in the whole developed world.”

“There are already negative stereotypes of Americans in these states, one can imagine it getting much more extreme,” he said. “What if they also ban genetic engineering and embryo selection, while other places go ahead?”

“Will they maintain their belief in a small safety net and lower government spending in such a world? Would liberals change their minds about government spending if it ends up going to states that have much higher costs due to these laws? Many interesting things to think about,” he added.

One in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. It is not clear what number of babies with Down syndrome are aborted, but one 2012 study estimated the abortion rate for babies with Downs was 67%, the AP reported.

A September 2011 study on perceptions of people with Down syndrome found that almost 99% of people with Down syndrome said they were happy with their lives and loved their families, 97% liked who they were and their brothers and sisters, and 96% liked how they look.

Hanania, a former research fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University who has written in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He clarified in a later tweet, “I didn’t even say it was *bad* that people in Red States could create a world where they have 5 times as many people with DS and other diseases. The ‘pro-life’ crowd jumped to the conclusion that more disability is bad. Tells you something, doesn’t it?”

Hanania’s comments received heavy criticism on social media.

“Have you ever met a kid with Down syndrome, Richard? I have,” tweeted Conservative Partnership Institute senior director of policy Rachel Bovard. “He’s one of my brothers. Downs kids are pure joy. Setting public policy thresholds for what constitutes a ‘worthwhile’ human life is eugenics. Even Planned Parenthood isn’t dumb enough to say this out loud.”

OH NO WHATSOEVER WILL WE DO WITH THESE UNDESIRABLE HUMANS,” tweeted Daily Wire managing editor Emily Zanotti, adding, “these absolute fucking ableist ghouls.”

“I’m perfectly happy with a world with more people with Down syndrome in it,” tweeted podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey. “I’m sorry you aren’t. Big eugenicist energy.”

This story has been updated to reflect Mr. Hanania’s relationship with Columbia University.

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Mary Margaret Olohan on September 2, 2021