Richard Dawkins: Keeping Fetus With Down's Is 'Immoral'

Renowned atheist sparks a Twitter war

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 21, 2014 3:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – What to do when you're pregnant with a fetus that has Down's syndrome? Simple, tweeted Richard Dawkins: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice." The renowned evolutionary theorist and atheist later apologized for sparking a Twitter war, and conceded that his "phraseology" was a little off, but he stuck by his guns in a blog on his website:

  • "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's 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."

Not all the Twitter responses were exactly favorable (or really printable), but Huffington Post rounds up a few:

  • "Who decides who gets to do the utility/suffering calculus? Very slippery slope indeed."
  • "Have you ever met someone with Downs Syndrome? See if you still think they’d’ve been better off never born."
  • "I have a cousin with Down Syndrome who is one of the most lovable and life-loving kids I know. Your tweet sickens me."
The row started when a woman tweeted that she would consider it "a real ethical dilemma" if she were pregnant with a Down's-syndrome baby. Dawkins later explained that he had no intention of "bossily" telling her what to do, and respected her right to choose; he also sympathized with people who "know and love a person with Down's syndrome." But, he added, while he has "sympathy for this emotional point ... it is an emotional one and not a logical one." The Down's Syndrome Association responded by saying that people with the condition "can and do live full and rewarding lives" and "also make a valuable contribution to our society."

Professor Richard Dawkins, ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author of books including The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene, is seen at Random House, London, on Wednesday, August 14th,2013.
Professor Richard Dawkins, ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author of books including The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene, is seen at Random House, London, on Wednesday, August 14th,2013.   (Fiona Hanson/AP)
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