Richard Dawkins recently got a lot of media attention for his comment to another person about aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome, and even more recently sent out a detailed explanation of what he meant by his tweet. Do you agree or disagree with what he said, and why?
jedimindtrick jedimindtrick
26-30, F
3 Responses Aug 22, 2014

It's the word immoral that is contentious.
But I agree with his sentiment. I'm pro choice. The parents decide.

Got to be careful not to fall into the Eugenics trap.

I totally agree with you.
As a society we are not comfortable to ever say "OK, this extraordinary medical procedure just costs to much for us to do it" (insurance companies do sometimes make that decisions, but they are not any more rational about it than others; they pay for procedures that are cheaper in the short term but more expensive in the long run based on the belief that by the time the patient needs it done again it will be some other insurance company's problem)
We, as a society, do not calculate the costs of special needs child and inform the parents, so all they see are the benefits (not that most parents don't have the issue with all children. Additional, most of the costs are not borne by the parents any way. The special education costs are paid by the school. Most of the medical costs are paid for by insurance and the government (many special needs children get SSI and Medicaid). True you still have a lot of out of pocket expenses that are not paid for, but I doubt any doctor of someone whose fetus tests positive for Down's syndrome rather than saying some things like this is going to be difficult actually says: you do know you are probably going to get divorced, your other kids are going to resent how much time you have to spend with this child, one of you is not going to be working because you can't find child care and you are going to have to take this child to therapies all the time and can't do it around a work schedule (and the courts won't believe you so good luck on spousal support when you break up), it is expensive for all those therapies, your insurance may pay, but it is going to take a lot of work for you to get them to do so, and by the way, you are going to have to learn the law to make the schools do what they should. Having nothing to do with economics, your sweet tempered down's boy is probably going to become violent and uncontrollable in his 20s.

Here in the UK, the costs are less important. Scans, Tests, Birth, Abortion etc are all free.

It's the time and emotional toll that are the challenge. You're right about the difficulties in later life...

I was not necessarily talking about out of pocket parental costs.


I was thinking about costs in general. Even though medical care doesn't "cost" to patients anything in the UK, the doctors, nurses, and staff get a salary, the building are built, the electricity has expenses, medicines are produced, etc.


An example from my own life: a child with autism needs social skills training. Between my insurance, his medicaid and funding from the state and county departments of mental health, the only out of pocket "cost" we had was transportation to and our time waiting while he got the therapy. But all those sources transferred monies to the therapist, approved the therapy, etc. Now I am in no way suggesting that it was not a good thing for him and as a society it was probably a good investment because without this therapy he had less chance to be productive, but we just don't look at them when we talk about the "cost" of raising a special needs child.


Just as we don't talk about the "cost" of primary education for children when we talk about how much it "costs" to raise a child as that is funded but the government.

Agreed. I don't believe that is immoral though.

I would much rather a downs child was born to a couple that wanted that child than the 1000s of unwanted / neglected children which are a far greater socioeconomic burden. Not a 1 to 1 mapping of course.

I totally agree.

I didn't mean to imply that I thought it was immoral (although I see that I did) to keep anyone alive (born or unborn) if that is what you want to do (maybe if you have a belief that they are in pain and don't care, it might be immoral). I would say don't think it is practical and not what I would do.

4 month ago my husband died after a series of strokes. After he lost the ability to speak and I thought he was just reacting to light and sound and continuing to have strokes despite the best available medicines, I decided to take him off all medicines that might prevent further strokes and ordered no food or hydration. I think I made the best choice as much as I loved him. I could have put him on life support and kept him alive for a period of time, but that is not what I felt was right for either of us.

In contrast the man next door had a heart attack at around the same time and is in their house on a ventilator, unable to indicate he is aware of his surroundings at all. I may think his wife is engaging in magical thinking, but I certainly don't think she is "immoral".

There are so many couples who can barely handle a neurotypical child, and until you have lived with a special needs child, you probably have no idea what it means.

My late husband had custody of his autistic son, and was forced by his son's needs to be a stay at home dad (he got several phone calls a day from the school to calm him down over the phone and had to visit the school several times a week). We had to take him with us everywhere. None of his relatives would watch him, even on our wedding night. We couldn't get a baby sitter as they all refused to come after reviewing his file. There are places called "respite" centers where a you can leave your child and go to a movie, they also would not accept him. I loved them both and did it willingly, but it was rough.

I'm sorry for your loss and you are much stronger and selfless than I could be.

Once I'm gone I don't want to be kept alive artificially. There's no getting better from death. It's inevitable.

It sounds rough. The care required is unimaginable. I know how much effort my two are and they are regular kids.

Thank you.

It was not a difficult decision, intellectually, but it was very painful.

While I wish he was not dead, I am comfortable that I did what needed to be done and that is the best anyone can hope for.

4 More Responses

I agree with him. Why would you want to bring a child with Down Syndrome into the world? It will face a multitude of hardships, so if you have the advantage of knowing, abort it and try again. It will save everyone a lot of pain.

I 100% agree

Agreeing with his sentiment and saying he should have said it outloud in those words, are different. People get totally irrational when it comes to children, especially when it is their own. Additionally, you know you are pregnant when you have the test, and you have probably told your relatives and maybe your friends. If you, have no, pushy, nosy, opinionated relatives who would feel free to tell you that abortion for this reason is not a good idea, then be very grateful to physical forces and random stochastic process that govern the universe (I have no such relatives, but my my sister married into them).

I think it was ill-advised for a public figure to say what many of us believe in such a blunt manner. While he might have gotten away with saying he personally would encourage his family members to abort a fetus that tested positive for Downs Syndrome, he was unwise to call it "immoral" not to do so.

My late husband was custodial parent of a son on the autism spectrum and we were together for 11 years, I was functionally "Mama". I spent a fair amount of time at Special Olympics functions. Special needs kids know they are different and many resent it. Additionally special needs kids take a huge emotional toll on the family. Divorce rates are higher and the other children many times feel neglected. (I won't even go into the economic impacts, it is very hard for both parents to work as child care is unavailable and terribly expensive not to mention the issue of taking them to all of their appointments). That being said, there are many people who look upon the issues about having children with emotion not rationality (I saw a family at therapy with 3 boys on the autism spectrum and the mother was pregnant again talking about how she was going to have another boy and hoped this one, unlike all of her previous boys, wasn't autistic as that was so stressful).