A parent of a child with Down’s Syndrome has challenged one of the world’s leading atheists over his controversial comments that parents of children with some conditions have a “moral obligation” to abort their unborn babies.
Richard Dawkins was taking calls on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme when his past comments about Down’s Syndrome babies were brought up.
Prof Dawkins initially said: “What I did say is that if a person [does a medical test and] discovers that they have a Down’s Syndrome foetus, then it’s probably a good idea to abort it.”
Evangelical Alliance’s Northern Ireland director Peter Lynas, who was also on the programme, interjected to remind Prof Dawkins that he had said such parents were “morally obliged” to end such pregnancies.
The leading atheist replied: “I would go as far as to say that under some circumstances,” but stressed that he did not believe that people who have already been born with the condition should be “shunned or killed”.
A Mr Malcolmson phoned the programme and told the eminent scientist: “I think Dr Dawkins said there — and I’d just like to clarify it — that he would encourage folk who found out that prior to their children’s birth that they had Down’s Syndrome that they should be aborted.
“As the father of a son with Down’s Syndrome, I find that quite disturbing.”
Dr Dawkins responded to clarify “that I did say that once the child has been born, it’s an entirely different matter”, but told the caller: “A foetus is not a child. A foetus is not something you can love in that way. There’s an enormous difference and it’s simply disingenuous to say that because I advocate aborting a foetus...”
But the caller said: “I would take a different view, Dr Dawkins, because I believe that at the moment of conception that is a living life and I have to say that both of our sons — one has Down’s Syndrome and one doesn’t — have brought much joy...”
Prof Dawkins attempted to interject, but the man insisted on continuing, telling him that it was “not advisable to advise people to abort people simply on the basis that they have some disability”.
Later in the programme, Prof Dawkins said that he “went too far talking about ‘moral obligation’”, explaining that his motivation was to minimise suffering.