By BRIAN CLOWES
(Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of this article with footnotes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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“There is no substitution for a constitutional right to abortion which protects our fundamental rights” — The March of Dimes.
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No organization has done more to eliminate crippling birth defects than the March of Dimes. The MoD enjoys a great reputation and a quarter-billion dollar annual budget sustained by many imaginative fundraising campaigns. It has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of handicapped children and their families with its emphasis on improved prenatal care and innovative research into providing groundbreaking treatments for children who are born with birth defects.
This is the public face of the March of Dimes, and this is what the public supports. Unfortunately, the MoD has fallen victim to one of the more prominent features of the anti-life mentality to a certain degree: a devotion to expediency, a desire to accomplish the mission by the most efficient and cost-effective means.
The primary mission of the March of Dimes “is improving infant health by preventing birth defects.” Some of its activities in pursuing this goal are certainly pro-life. These include the promotion of fortifying grains with folic acid, leading to a dramatic decline in neural tube defects (NTDs), and encouraging the addition of iodine to salt, leading to large decreases in both severe congenital hypothyroidism and maternal iodine deficiency.
However, although it consistently denies that it supports abortion, the March of Dimes has indirectly enabled the practice for many years.
In the early 1970s, the March of Dimes began to sponsor major seminars on handicapped unborn babies. These gatherings led to the MoD pioneering mid-trimester amniocentesis, which not only risked causing miscarriages, but also led to an increase in abortions for eugenic reasons.
The March of Dimes has also awarded a number of substantial grants to abortionists for the purpose of implementing “search and destroy” eugenic abortions. The MoD gave abortionist Maurice Mahoney $35,000 to research the prenatal genetic diagnosis technique known as chorionic villi sampling (CVS), which paved the way for aborting first-trimester unborn children with certain serious birth defects.
The MoD also awarded $50,000 to eugenics advocate Dr. Haig H. Kazazian of Johns Hopkins University so that he could research methods to detect beta-thalassemia, hemophilia A, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and cystic fibrosis, none of which are treatable before birth. More than 90 percent of preborn babies with these conditions are aborted.
The March of Dimes also gave $19,000 to Dr. John Crocker of Dalhousie University in Canada to study kidney defects. Crocker wrote that his study involved “60 pairs of embryonic kidneys . . . obtained from human therapeutic abortions after five to twelve weeks gestation.”
The March of Dimes’ primary tool in accomplishing its mission of “preventing birth defects” is support of a range of prenatal genetic diagnoses, which often lead to abortion. One March of Dimes booklet entitled Genetic Counseling: Should You Consider It? says:
“When a birth defect is diagnosed, genetic counselors provide emotional support and understanding during what can be a very difficult time. If there are decisions to be made — about the pregnancy, the care of a child, having more children, or about the ability of the family to cope with ongoing problems — the parents can make more informed choices with the facts in hand.”
What “informed choices” is the MoD talking about here? In a 1979 symposium sponsored by the March of Dimes, bioethicist Joseph Fletcher described one option: “People who carry genetic disease should be prevented from having children. We ought, in conscience, to have a humane minimum standard of reproduction, not blindly accepting the outcome of every conception. And we ought to act on our genetic information to prevent the birth of children below that minimum.” What Fletcher is missing here, of course, is the fact that it is impossible to contracept or abort birth defects out of existence. No matter how many Down syndrome babies are aborted (and more than 90 percent of them are aborted), they will continue to be conceived.
The March of Dimes has also supported “selective reduction,” which is the abortion of one or more unborn children in a multiple pregnancy. One MoD paper said that this kind of abortion was acceptable if the mother wanted “to allow the birth of a healthy newborn without the birth of a coexisting fetus with a congenital abnormality” or “to reduce a multiple pregnancy to a single pregnancy for social or personal indications.”
The March of Dimes also encourages abortion by favoring the transplantation of human fetal tissue from abortions. It is one of many charities that advocate for federal funding of fetal transplants in experiments for treatments to cure or ameliorate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases and disabilities.
The most direct way that the March of Dimes supports abortion is the grants it gives to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which operates the largest chain of abortion mills in the USA, and which has performed more than six million abortions. These 31 grants total more than half a million dollars. Of course, this is a tiny drop in the bloody bucket compared to PPFA’s billion-dollar annual budget, but these token grants do show that the March of Dimes approves of the abortion giant’s work.
The March of Dimes supports Planned Parenthood in other ways. The MoD supported PP’s 2013 white paper entitled Taking Control: The Ongoing Battle to Preserve the Birth Control Benefit in the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of this white paper was to support Congress in forcing all employers, regardless of their religious beliefs, to pay for contraception (including abortifacients) for their employees. The report was filled with the usual shrill nonsense from PPFA, including the charge that those companies that opposed the Obamacare contraception mandate were “for profit and against women’s health.”
Dr. Jerome Lejeune, who discovered Down syndrome and dedicated his life to finding a cure for it, was familiar with the March of Dimes claim that it does not promote abortion, even as it influences people to have them. He compared this evasiveness to selling guns to terrorists: “I know they are terrorists, but I am just selling guns. Nothing more than that.”
Although the March of Dimes does much good work and does not take an activist pro-abortion stand, its activities actually encourage the performance of abortions in cases where birth defects are detected by prenatal genetic diagnoses. There is a large philosophical and practical difference between the approach the MoD takes and the true pro-life approach of valuing every human being regardless of his or her mental or physical condition. Sadly, it is a human trait to choose the easier wrong over the harder right when faced with a difficult problem.
The March of Dimes has repeatedly stated that it is “neutral” on abortion, but its claims ring hollow. In its 2006 Global Report on Birth Defects, it says:
“The March of Dimes maintains a policy of neutrality on the issue of abortion. If termination of pregnancy is discussed with parents in the course of prenatal care, this discussion must be within the limits of the legal terms of reference of the country. Health-care providers must not give directive or coercive advice, are obliged to respect the religious and moral beliefs of the parents, and should abide by and support their decisions.”
This language is uncomfortably similar to what we find on the websites of many abortion clinics and pro-abortion population control groups. By not opposing abortion, MoD implicitly accepts it as an acceptable option.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to the March of Dimes. For example, pro-lifers who would like to assist a life-supporting group doing genetic research may be interested in looking into The Michael Fund, which calls itself “The Pro-Life Alternative to the March of Dimes,” at www.michaelfund.org.