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“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice,” Richard Dawkins tweeted.
These words by themselves are probably shocking and offensive. Many pro-life advocates would be put off at even just the sight of the word “abort.” So let me be fair and provide some context.
Six days ago, a woman tweeted that she would face an ethical dilemma if forced to choose whether to abort a baby who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome, according to BBC News. The 20 words above were the response from Dawkins, an atheist and evolutionist revered by millions in the secular science world.
The “it” Dawkins was referring to is the unborn baby, or “fetus” as he calls it, that is diagnosed with the genetic disorder.
According to mayoclinic.org, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by abnormal cell division, resulting in extra genetic material from chromosome 21. People with Down syndrome are often developmentally and intellectually delayed and may also have health problems, the website states.
Although the 94 characters did plenty to stir up controversy, Dawkins did not stop there.
He issued an “apology” Aug. 21 via his foundation’s website, richarddawkins.net.
This time, Dawkins offered many more than 140 characters on the subject, including the explanation he would have given to the woman considering her hypothetical dilemma had he had the luxury of more space.
“Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort,” Dawkins wrote as part of his second response. “… I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”
Dawkins continued to add to his thought that it is not morally right or good to actually give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. He offered the burden of caring for someone with Down syndrome as defense for aborting a baby diagnosed with the disorder.
“In any case, you 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,” Dawkins wrote to the woman. “Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice.”
To excuse Dawkins for his statements simply because they arise out of his own worldview is not an option. While this matter requires much more argument about the issues of morality and personhood than space allows, I cannot help but be extremely saddened and angered by Dawkins’ words.
Although he did not say it explicitly, Dawkins is implying that allowing a Down child to be born is decreasing happiness and increasing suffering. He is implying that a baby who is diagnosed with the disorder should not be born because of the burden he or she will inevitably become.
While my response to Dawkins’ words may be one he tried to explain away in his apology, it does not come from “a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.”
I believe that life begins at conception and that aborting a baby with or without Down syndrome is taking a life. Aborting a baby with Down syndrome is avoiding a “short life expectancy” by not allowing life at all. Aborting a baby with Down syndrome is avoiding the idea that a child with the disorder could be a potential burden simply because things may be done a little differently or take a little longer.
Having a baby with Down syndrome is in no way condemning. It may be hard at times, but, in my experience, those with Down syndrome are a blessing to those around them.
My friend Benny, a little boy with Down syndrome, is the furthest thing from a burden. He is one of the happiest and sweetest people I have ever met, and he brings me so much joy. Yes, he looks a little different than other kids. Yes, he has a harder time learning and speaking than others. But I would rather spend time with Benny than with almost any other person.
Though this issue focuses largely on Dawkins’ words, it is the people like Benny and the babies whose lives are cut short that should be the focus. It is time that people across the globe realize the importance of each baby, including babies with this genetic disorder. Allowing babies diagnosed with Down syndrome to live is never the immoral choice.