Problems on the abortion beat

18 weeks ultrasoundEarlier this week, newspapers in the United Kingdom reported some abortion figures from the Office for National Statistics. From 1996 to 2004, 20 unborn children in late pregnancies were aborted because ultrasounds showed that they had club feet. The deformity is fairly common and readily corrected by surgery or physical therapy. Another four babies were aborted because they had webbed fingers or extra digits -- also easily corrected. In 2005, a healthy baby was aborted at the sixth month because part of his foot was missing.

The story spread rapidly and was linked to by a number of blogs. Almost all of the reaction about the abortions was negative, even in the stories, such as this one in The Sunday Times:

News of the terminations has reignited the debate over how scanning and gene technology may enable the creation of "designer babies". In 2002 it emerged that a baby had been aborted late -- at 28 weeks -- after scans found that it had a cleft palate, another readily corrected condition. . . .

Naomi Davis, a leading paediatric surgeon at Manchester children's hospital who specialises in correcting club feet, said: "I think it's reasonable to be totally shocked that abortion is being offered for this. It is entirely treatable. I can only think it is lack of information."

Stories quoted a number of people expressing outrage that unborn children are aborted for treatable conditions. And other stories were devoted to clerical condemnations.

But that is so dog-bites-man, isn't it?

Being shocked is reasonable, as the pediatric surgeon says. So wouldn't it instead have been interesting to substantively interview advocates of abortion? How do they feel about aborting a fetus because of cleft palate? On what basis do they support it? If they don't support it, why not? Also, in general, the implications of designer babies and the intolerance of imperfection could better be covered by media outlets.

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