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Down's syndrome and abortion

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Atheism gives no moral compass to those who stick to it, and no reason not to allow murder in at least some contexts. If you doubt that, read what Richard Dawkins had to say yesterday about abortion. And specifically in the context of Trisomy 21, also known as Down's syndrome.

Richard Dawkins was "tweeting" back and forth on Twitter with several users. (You can search his Twitter feed here.) Dustin Siggins at LifeNews.com has the tweets that matter most. He began: "Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area." That area: abortion.

So someone else asked him whether he thought the killing of 994 unborn children with Down's syndrome in England and Wales in 2012 was a "civilised" thing to do.

Richard Dawkins shot back: "yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings."

Richard Dawkins seems to assume a baby feels no pain until birth. So abortion destroys a mass of cells impervious to pain.

He soon confirmed this. Someone asked him, "I honestly don't know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma."

He answered, "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you had the choice."

Why? Because abortion, in his view, "causes no suffering." Does Down's syndrome cause suffering? So he implied.

Richard Dawkins assumes three things without warrant. First, that abortion causes no pain. James D. Agresti, at JustFactsDaily, says unborn children start to feel pain after twenty weeks of development. Problem: most of the time, you cannot diagnose Down's syndrome before the twentieth week.

Second, that patients, and their caregivers, with Down's syndrome suffer. Langdon Down, who first described the syndrome from an extra twenty-first autosome, regrettably called the disease "Mongolian idiocy." This was a racist slam on the population of Mongolia and on the patients themselves, who sometimes have an intellectual challenge. (But they don't, as the word "idiocy" suggests, truly live in a world of their own.)

The late William A. Nolen, M.D., in The Making of a Surgeon, mentioned an attending surgeon at North Shore Hospital (now called North Shore LIJ Hospital) when he, Nolen, trained there for six months. (This was during the late Fifties.) This surgeon cavalierly spoke of performing a ventricular septal defect repair and not worrying because his patient was a six-year-old child with Down's syndrome. Those who practice children's medicine today know the only constant thing patients with Down's syndrome suffer from is prejudice. Again according to LifeNews, 99 percent of patients with Down's syndrome see themselves happy, not sad. So why abort them? No reason. When Richard Dawkins automatically holds them sad, he shows the same disgusting prejudice that William A. Nolen's preceptor at North Shore showed. For someone who boasts of having a twenty-first century outlook, Richard Dawkins certainly shows a mid-twentieth-century manner. And a Fifties manner, which he says he despises.

Third and last: Richard Dawkins makes light of the "real ethical dilemma" his questioner had. In fact he says the immoral thing is to let the baby live. Only one who rejects the idea that God (a) exists and (b) made man, could actually suggest that ethics commands people to kill children before they are born, on any grounds. The grounds Dawkins does mention are categorically specious. The grounds he will not state, are his real reason: Down's syndrome comes with an intellectual challenge.

Today, any doctor would recoil in horror at such prejudice against "slow" patients. Medical community leaders discarded Langdon Down's original name for the syndrome he described, and preferred instead to name it in his honor, for that very reason! (But medical schools don't train their students adequately to handle a "slow" patient, and 60 percent of medical-school deans have no problem with this.) So why does Richard Dawkins not only cling to this prejudice, but recommend public policy on that basis?

He does so because he has no moral compass. He tries to set his own compass. That compass, lacking a good "magnetic field," points in this horrifying direction. And he sees nothing wrong with that. But the rest of us should.

Gary DeMar said it best: Richard Dawkins would have killed DeMar's granddaughter. Because Richard Dawkins, ever the consistent atheist, holds life cheap.

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