The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCainâ€™s running mate has all sorts of interesting political implications, which are being diced and parsed as I write. But Iâ€™m more interested in the long-term cultural implications of the choice of Palin, whether the McCainâ€“Palin ticket wins or loses in November, for one of the most vexing horizons of impossibility in our culture: the abortion rate among unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
Upwards of 85 percent of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome elect to terminate the pregnancy, according to several studies in the peer-reviewed journal Prenatal Diagnosis. A 1999 British study in that journal found the termination rate to be between 91 and 93 percent. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I remember seeing many people my age and younger who had the distinctive facial and behavioral characteristics of Down children. These days I rarely see a Down Syndrome child at all.