Oxford scientist and atheist writer Professor Richard Dawkins has apologised for the ‘feeding frenzy’ he sparked on Twitter by saying he thinks it’s ‘immoral’ to have a baby with Down’s syndrome.
The professor, author of the The God Delusion, said he thinks a pregnant woman who’s been told she’s carrying a baby with Down’s syndrome should have a termination – although he did add that he was not saying that babies already born with Down’s syndrome shouldn’t have the right to live.
“Abort it and try again,” he tweeted in response to a Twitter user who said she would be faced with a real dilemma if she became pregnant and found out her baby would be born with Down’s syndrome. “It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”
His tweet was met with a flurry of angry responses and was immediately challenged by Down’s syndrome charities.
Professor Dawkins originally defended his words, saying he was “approaching moral philosophic questions in a logical way”. He also insisted his opinion was “very civilised” because, he said, foetuses do not have “human feelings”.
But now he has posted an apology on his website saying, “My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding… Those who thought I was bossily telling a woman what to do rather than let her choose – of course this was absolutely not my intention and I apologise if brevity made it look that way.”
In response to the professor’s original tweet, a spokesperson from the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) made the point that people with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives,
“They also make a valuable contribution to our society,” she said. “We do not believe Down’s syndrome, in itself, should be a reason for termination, but we realise that families must make their own choice.
“The DSA strives to ensure that all prospective parents are given accurate and up to date information about the condition and what life might be like today for someone with Down’s syndrome.”