A few days ago, the following tweet was addressed to renowned atheist Richard Dawkins:
I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.
Richard Dawkins’s Reply:
Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
I was stunned when I read this calloused response from Dawkins. My daughter Amelia, according to his reasoning, should have been killed in the womb. In his pseudo-apology, Dawkins said that we should be seeking to reduce suffering in the world, perversely indicating that people with Down syndrome are adding to that suffering. Contrary to his belief, it is emphatically untrue that people with Down syndrome suffer more than most. In recent studies, 99 percent of people with Down syndrome responded that they are happy with their lives, 97 percent like who they are, and 96 percent like how they look. I daresay you would have a hard time finding such positive responses among any other cross-section of society. So if individuals with Down syndrome are content with who they are, why should anyone be concerned?
I think people like Dawkins are afraid that children with Down syndrome will cause suffering in society, the idea being that suffering involves having to deal with the imperfect. So suffering might mean having to look at a person who doesn’t look like everyone else. Suffering might mean having a grocery store clerk who is slower than the typical person. Suffering might mean having to be patient with someone who has difficulty getting around or figuring things out.
Suffering is being reminded of human limitations. Suffering is being inconvenienced. This is evidenced by the truth that 90% of mothers who receive a prenatal diagnosis choose to abort their babies who have Down syndrome. Our society has promoted a culture in which we feel that we’re better off without this brand of imperfection.
When did we become such cowards? Why are we so afraid of doing hard things?
When did doing the easy thing become more compelling than doing the right thing?
When did we stop being brave enough to sacrifice for the sake of another?
Motherhood is supposed to be hard. And it is, even for those who have typical children. It is challenging, but it is rewarding. It is inconvenient, but it is good. It is painful, but it is meaningful. Sacrificing for our children truly is hard, but it is also right.
Our society judges women who do drugs, smoke, or even drink caffeine while pregnant because we know that mothers are not supposed to hurt their children. So when did it become okay to discard a child because he or she has a disability?
We should all be alarmed. We have created a society that looks at innocent, unborn children and asks how we will be affected positively or negatively by their lives. Then we decide if those children will live or die based on the answer. What kind of a warped moral framework supports this thinking?
All born and unborn humans — including Richard Dawkins — have intrinsic value woven into the fabric of their beings. That Richard Dawkins does not acknowledge this is his loss. That society does not acknowledge this is our tragedy.