Is choice still choice with strings attached?

According to the documentary The Right Child [Det rätta barnet], which was broadcast on Swedish television recently, a prenatal screening programme in Denmark has started a trend which, if it continues, will lead to no more babies being born with Down’s syndrome. With more advanced screening technology, more and more parents are choosing to terminate pregnancies when the condition is diagnosed. In a leader editorial about the documentary, Hanne Kjöller raises her concerns for the kind of society prenatal diagnostic testing creates. Highlighting that she is a pro-choice advocate, she asks what will happen when screening programmes that can detect autism in foetuses are introduced. How narrow can the perception of the perfect child...

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A new opium for the masses

Three children die, because they don’t get the medicine they need. Three children die, but not because there is no medicine and their illness can’t be cured. Three children die in vain, because their father, a religious pastor, chooses not to bring his children to the doctor but to stay at home and pray. “Prayer is,” Swedish blogger Lisa Magnusson writes, “humility, submission. But its consequence is that all suffering is, if not self-inflicted, at least something that can be rectified by believing enough and praying sincerely enough” [my translation]. Reading this, it hit me: absurd as this situation seems to many of us, it is all too familiar to a system in which we, as consumers, are ourselves omnipotent, and we, as...

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The norm, the exception, and a fragile bridge

Is Dame Helen Mirren an actor or an actress? In the Guardian, she’s an actor, and a recent article on the subject explains why. While readers wondered why the profession of acting wouldn’t deserve the same kind of distinction between male and female as titles such as duchess and duke, the style guide editor explained: “We described Harriet Walter as one of our greatest actors. Calling her one of our greatest actresses is not the same thing at all.” This is of course something he’s put a lot of thought into, and I’m sure there’s fine egalitarian reasoning behind his decision. The irony is that through his statement he pinpoints exactly why this is complex: if saying that someone is one of our greatest actors seems like more...

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What Clarke and Strauss-Kahn tell us about our leaders

It’s happened again. One of our key politicians has spoken without censoring himself, and everyone’s in shock. But should we be? How much more do we need to hear to realise that this is the reality of politics in the western world? Kenneth Clarke talked about a distinction between “serious rape” and “date rapes”, referring to the latter as “17-year-olds having intercourse with 15-year-olds”. Serious rape, he explained, includes “violence and an unwilling woman”. Mind-boggling, yes. But frankly not so surprising, at least for those who knew that Clarke has previously commented on how “a woman can make an anonymous complaint, the man can eventually be convicted, after going through a long and probably rather...

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