The discussion of more and more attempts to identify and destroy babies with Down syndrome has made me think that it's about time we coined a term to describe the kind of fear and bigotry that leads people to think that being different ought to carry a death sentence. This drive for prenatal "screening" to identify and abort babies with dwarfism, Down syndrome, and anything else that makes the Beautiful People uncomfrotable needs to be clearly identified so it can be fought.
Let's go to the Phobia List and see what we find:
There is Anthropophobia- Fear of people or society. But these people aren't afraid of people in general; just of people whose appearance or ways of doing things make them uncomfortable.
There is Apotemnophobia- Fear of persons with amputations. But only some of these prenatal conditions involve missing limbs.
Here we have a possibility: Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection. Granted, these folks act out their own bigotry in terms of trying to eliminate others that they view as "imperfect", but might not there be an underlying fear of their own imperfection that they're projecting onto kids who are different?
Maybe there's an aspect of Cainophobia or Cainotophobia- Fear of newness, novelty. (also Kainolophobia or Kainophobia- Fear of anything new, novelty.) Is it possible that the fact that kids with certain prenatal conditions make the bigoted people fear that new things will be visited upon them?
Maybe this is closely related to Cenophobia or Centophobia- Fear of new things or ideas. (or Metathesiophobia- Fear of changes.) How horrible it might be for these people to entertain the idea that just because other people are different doesn't mean they're wretched.
Dysmorphophobia- Fear of deformity. Perhaps this is a factor. Not all of the congenital conditions that eugenecists want to weed out result in any part of the body being deformed, so this may be a partial explanation but hardly covers the fear of the various trisomies. I'd have to say the same for Teratophobia- Fear of bearing a deformed child or fear of monsters or deformed people. Not all congenital conditions cause any sort of visible deformity of bodily parts, but there is just as much of an impetus to eliminate babies with those conditions as there is to elimate those with more visible syndromes.
Maybe we're dealing with Optophobia- Fear of opening one's eyes. Not literally, of course, but fear of opening one's eyes to the humanity of those who are different.
There's definately an aspect of Panthophobia- Fear of suffering and disease. The eugenecists percieve the child as suffering, and as being afflicted with some disease, and thus fear the child.
Maybe we have a lot of different people with different fears all converging against their common enemy: children whose existence makes them uncomfortable, for whatever reason.
We need to stop acting as if what they propose -- identifying "defective" children through prenatal testing so that they can be weeded out in the womb -- is in any way a decent, humane thing to do. It's acting on one's own fear, making somebody else die because of your own personal issues.
It's mean. It's wrong. And we need to take a stand against it.
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