Richard Dawkins is not the only one wrong about Down syndrome and abortion

Richard Dawkins is not the only one wrong about Down syndrome and abortion August 21, 2014
Photo: David Shankbone / Wiki Commons
Photo: David Shankbone / Wiki Commons

Let me get this out of the way, I am a fan of Richard Dawkins. I have read most of his books, I have worked with his organization, I have met the man a few times and found him pleasant.

I agree with a lot of the things he says, but that does not mean I agree with everything, or must agree with everything. It also doesn’t mean I hate him when he says something I disagree with.

Hating Richard is the new black, it seems every atheist now want to claim to have never liked him, or that he had no influence on their atheism or thought process, for some this is true, for many, they are the hipsters of the atheist movement who, “hated Dawkins before it was cool.”

I have defended Richard, more than once, and I have spoken out more than once, and I have even Tweeted or written publically to him when I disagree, and I don’t fear being on any sort of “blacklist” because I don’t believe the man to be that petty that people cannot disagree with him.

In his recent Tweets about abortion, he suggested the moral thing to do was to abort a fetus with Down syndrome if the mother had a choice, or more exactly, he said it was immoral not to do so.

He could not be more wrong, and really, he could not be more insensitive. I cannot come to the defense of Dawkins in this case. I think the choice to bring a child with Down syndrome into this world is a parents decision, not a simple moral or immoral claim. Instead of saying it so cut and dry, parents need to make the decision well informed. What is the quality of life, what is the long-term care needed, etc.

Having Down syndrome is not a death sentence nor does it mean you cannot have a great quality of life. It also doesn’t mean as a parent you must bring the child into this world. This is what freedom of choice means and why I am pro-choice. If parents feel strongly enough that a child cannot have the quality of life it deserves and they decide to abort, they did not make an immoral choice. Yet Richard is not alone in being wrong here, people on the other side are saying things just as wrong.

This statement is purely wrong as well. We have the ability to screen for birth defects that allow parents to make an informed decision about the life of the child they will be giving birth to. If they learn the child would have no quality of life, could only live for a few hours or days, then parents have the right to decide if this is something they want to go through or put a child through.

Just as Richard makes this sound black and white, so is much of the opposition, who is of course pro-life and wants to call what Richard is advocating for eugenics, which it is not.

It seems to me the only correct stance on this argument would be the middle and siding with choice. The position Richard took that makes it black and white is just as wrong as the side the pro-life took that is also black and white.

Richard later clarified his thoughts, as seems to be the pattern with his Tweets these days by saying, “I think abortion is right if the woman wants an abortion. Down syndrome is one very good, and extremely common reason, to want it,” Dawkins tweeted, and then adding, “Women have a right to early abortion. Choice is theirs. Down Syndrome is 1 of the commonest & most moral reasons to exercise that right.”

Maybe if he had started from a position of choice in the first place we wouldn’t be watching another Dawkins controversy unfold.

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