Atheist activist, Richard Dawkins, created a stir for his comments on twitter regarding the abortion of Down Syndrome babies. While commenting on an article by fellow atheist, Jerry A. Coyne, who slammed the Catholic church for its "medieval morality" in opposing abortion, Dawkins made his opinion clear: abortion is the only moral option for mothers expecting children with Down Syndrome:
@Aidan McCourt: 994 Human beings with Down Syndrome deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012. Is that civilised?
@Richard Dawkins: Yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings.
@InYourFaceNewYorker: I honestly don't know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical delimma.
@Richard Dawkins: Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
When a twitter follower with autism asked if people with autism should be aborted, Dawkins responded, "People on that spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced."
Matthew Balan, columnist for the News Busters and a news analyst at the Media Research Center, replied with a picture of himself and his cousin who has Down Syndrome: "I'll tell you what's 'immoral:' suggesting that my cousin should have been murdered in the womb."
On August 21, Dawkins posted a response to the furor he created on twitter, entitled, "Abortion & Down Syndrome: An Apology for Letting Slip the Dogs of Twitterwar:"
"Here is what I would have said in my reply to this woman, given more than 140 characters:
'Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.'"
He went on to categorize those who were offended by his tweet into five groups. The fifth category he described as those who love someone with Down Syndrome. "I have sympathy for this emotional point, but it is an emotional one not a logical one," he wrote.
The apology was not for his stance on the issue of aborting those with Down Syndrome and is made clear in his concluding remarks: "My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand."