The Atheist Call to Abort the Disabled

Those were the recent words of Richard Dawkins, responding to a tweet from a woman who said she would see it as “a real ethical dilemma” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down syndrome.

After the uproar that followed on Twitter, Dawkins dug in his heels.

“To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse. 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.

“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’s 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.”

Dawkins, like many of the so-called New Atheists (though they’re not so new anymore) finds himself regularly baffled at the way the public reacts to his pronouncements. He sounds a little like Mr. Spock when he wonders why there is this “wanton eagerness” to misunderstand his perfectly reasonable logic as cruel or heartless when, as he notes, so many people make just the choice he suggests.