Life Is Suffering
Many people nowadays, living a pampered existence in our wealthy consumer society, seem to have forgotten what our ancestors knew—that we grow and evolve by dealing with adversity, not by avoiding it. We gain strength and wisdom when we confront our difficulties and find ways to learn and benefit from them.
In an age when our everyday activities include browsing among millions of products in shopping malls and on the Internet, it's tempting to think that we can just do the same with the diversity of the human species—pick and choose a few glittering gift-wrapped popular packages, while leaving all the problems and challenges and unfashionable styles on the shelf.
The seductive promise of avoiding suffering is the false foundation on which modern-day eugenics rests. When the Down Syndrome prenatal test first came into use, parents were advised that terminating the pregnancy was the most compassionate choice because DS babies often were born with defects of the heart and other organs and would have a short and painful life. Although today's advanced surgical techniques have made it possible to repair most such defects at birth or shortly thereafter, the medical profession simply takes it for granted that being born with DS equates to preventable suffering. Doctors and genetic counselors never bothered to ask people with DS for their opinion.
We're now living in a world where hundreds of prenatal screening tests are being used for eugenic abortion purposes, and all of them are based on the premise that suffering should be prevented by eliminating genetic differences. The idea seems to be that by declaring a large percentage of the human species eugenically unfit to live, we'll end up with a race of perfect children who never suffer and never cause their parents any difficulties.
Of course, perfection in this context is a moving target. The Down Syndrome population has largely disappeared because of prenatal screening, but the psychologists have constructed new "disorders" such as autism and ADD/ADHD. I don't mean to suggest that these conditions are not real—the labels do indeed refer to identifiable clusters of behavioral traits—but in the past, they weren't pathologized to the extent they are today, and many of the children who are now labeled as "disordered" had ancestors with similar traits who were seen as quirky but normal.
As Dr. Seuss eloquently illustrated in his classic fable of the Star-Bellied Sneetches, any arbitrarily chosen trait can end up being seen as essential to proper social functioning, and the favored traits can change rapidly because society is so fickle.
To put it another way, everybody suffers, not just those who are described as "sufferers." All human beings have their own individual challenges to deal with, as well as their particular strengths, and almost any characteristic can be either a strength or a weakness in different environments. If we aborted every fetus that was ever going to suffer, the human species would promptly become extinct.