Richard Dawkins Says He Would Love His Child If She Had Down Syndrome, But Still Believes Abortion Would Be Right Choice

British atheist, ethnologist and biologist Richard Dawkins.
British atheist, ethnologist and biologist Richard Dawkins. | (Photo: Facebook/The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science)

Atheist author Richard Dawkins has further clarified his highly controversial recent comments that it would be "immoral" not to abort a baby with Down syndrome, by stating that if he had such a child, he would "love her dearly." He argued that this does not change the fact, however, that he believes aborting such a child would still be the right choice.

"I have not the slightest doubt that, if I had a Down child, I would love her dearly. If I believed in God, I'd probably thank God she wasn't aborted, and I would sincerely mean it and deeply feel it. But that is a judgment in hindsight, and it is totally compatible with a statement that, if offered a similar choice now, I would be in favor of abortion. Totally compatible with a belief that abortion would be the right decision, in circumstances where such a decision was available," the evolutionary biologist said in a message on his website.

He further argued that "the child that you now love is a person. You have grown to adore her every smile, her every facial expression, everything that makes her the individual personality that she is. The bundle of cells she once was had no personality at the time when she might have been aborted. There was nothing to love there at that time."

Dawkins faced a flood of criticism from online users and especially parents of children with Down syndrome who posted pictures and told stories of the worthwhile lives their children are living.

Earlier this week former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin invited Dawkins to come meet her 6-year-old son, Trig, who has Down syndrome.

"I'd let you meet my son if you promised to open your mind, your eyes, and your heart to a unique kind of absolute beauty," Palin wrote in a Facebook post.

"But, in my request for you to be tolerant, I'd have to warn Trig he must be tolerant, too, because he may superficially look at you as kind of awkward. I'll make sure he's polite, though!"

Other parents directed harsher criticism toward Dawkins. Tim Skeleton, the father of 16-year-old Jessica, who has passed six GCSEs at a mainstream school despite having Down syndrome, wrote that "Dawkins is an ignorant idiot sitting in an ivory tower."

He added in an article posted by The Mirror:

"Jessica's success is proof people with Down syndrome can live successful lives and I have no doubt she will work in the future and have a happy, independent and full life.

Writing for The Sunday Times, columnist Dominic Lawson added that his 19-year-old daughter, Domenica, is a "robust young woman with an irrepressible joie de vivre."

The father added that Dawkins' argument that people with Down syndrome suffer more than others "could be believed only by a person who has never taken the trouble to investigate the matter."

Lawson pointed to a paper published by the American Journal of Medical Genetics which found that people with Down syndrome do not feel unhappy with their lives.

"Nearly 99 percent of people with Down syndrome indicated they were happy with their lives, 97 percent liked who they are and 96 percent liked how they look," the paper said.

Fellow atheists also criticized the author's arguments, including David Harsanyi, senior editor of The Federalist website, who wrote:

"A few years back Newsweek reported that 90 percent of women whose fetuses tested positive for Down syndrome choose an abortion. Only a small percentage of mothers even used the test back then. More do today. Soon many more will. It's not outlandish to believe parents will continue to terminate fetuses in large numbers. Once we have widespread eugenics, where will towering minds like Dawkins place limits? To those who can experience 'human feelings?'" Harsanyi questioned.

"Dawkins offers no scientific formula for when life is worth protecting that I can discern. Only that it's 'immoral' to bring 'it' into the world if 'it' doesn't confirm to his specifications."

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