Dawkins says not aborting Down syndrome babies is immoral

Supporters of people with Down syndrome have slammed atheist Richard Dawkins’ comments that it would be immoral not to abort a foetus with the condition.

The controversy erupted after a Twitter exchange between Dawkins and a woman who said she would face a real ethical dilemma if pregnant with a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Dawkins replied in a tweet: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

The tweets prompted a backlash from large numbers of people on Twitter, including pro-life activists, parents of Down syndrome children, and the occasional self-described pro-choice person who felt Dawkins went too far.

Dawkins apologised for the “frenzy”, saying he intended his remark to be read only by the woman addressed, who frequented forums on his website.

However, he stood by his claim that in his view, “the moral and sensible choice would be to abort” an unborn baby with Down syndrome.

Dawkins said that his position “simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse”.

He acknowledged his opinion is “contentious”, but said that the choice to give birth to a child with Down syndrome “would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child”.

“No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice,” he said.

Down syndrome organisations said in a joint August 22 statement that they were “outraged and saddened” by Dawkins’ comments, saying he “strongly argued for the elimination of people with the condition”.

They stressed the need for accurate information about people who live with Down syndrome.

People with Down syndrome in the US have an average lifespan of 60 years and have benefited from “great strides” in medical care and research, the foundations said.

They are able to take advantage of educational and work opportunities.

Dawkins insisted that there is a difference in deciding on a termination before a child is born, and suggesting after the child is born that it should have been aborted.

Dawkins recently argued that some types of rape or paedophilia are worse than others, then told people who couldn’t understand his logic to “go away and learn how to think”.


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