Originally published August, 2014
Dear Dr. Dawkins,
Earlier this week, on Twitter, you drew attention to a troubling fact unknown to most people. You pointed out that in the United States and Europe, most children conceived with Down syndrome are aborted. You’re right. Some experts put the number as high as 90 percent. Others suggest that only 65 percent, or 70 percent, or 80 percent of children with Down syndrome are aborted. The actual number is probably very difficult to determine. You have a platform, Dr. Dawkins, an audience, and in some real way I’m very grateful that you drew attention to the pre-natal eradication of people with Down syndrome.
But you made your point about the ubiquity of Down syndrome abortion in order to defend a terrible assertion. You suggested on Twitter, Dr. Dawkins, a moral imperative to abort children conceived with Down Syndrome. You said that if a woman had the choice to abort such a child, and she failed to so, she would have acted immorally. I’m troubled by that, and, very honestly, I’m confused.
You’ve traditionally held a position of moral neutrality regarding abortion. You’ve asserted that killing animals, with the capacity to experience pain, fear, and suffering, is of greater moral significance than killing fetuses: nascently human, you assert, but without the kind of sentience that gives them moral significance. You’ve suggested that no carnivore can reasonably hold a position in opposition to abortion. You’re not alone in that position, it’s become de rigueur among most contemporary analytic ethicists.
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