Richard Dawkins said yesterday that pregnant women who know that their child will have Down's syndrome should have an abortion.
The biologist and staunch atheist made the remarks on Twitter. He was initially responding to the news that an immigrant woman living in Ireland, who wanted to abort a baby conceived during a rape attack in her home country, was a given caesarean section.
He shared a link to an article on the New Republic, saying: "Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area [...] You'd think the Roman Church would have lost all influence."
Responding to a comment from another Twitter user, he said that the abortion of Down's syndrome was "civilised" because "These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings."
He then answered another question about whether to abort a Down's syndrome foetus by saying: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."
His comments were met with widespread condemnation, but he defended his position by saying that it was what the majority of women in that situation choose to do.
Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
In 2011 and 2012, 90% of prenatal diagnoses of Down's syndrome were terminated, according to the National Down Syndrome Cytogenic Register for England and Wales. It is legal in the UK to terminate a foetus with Down's syndrome after 24 weeks.
Dawkins did add, however, that he did not mean to undermine those living with Down's syndrome: "There's profound moral difference between 'This fetus should now be aborted' and 'This person should have been aborted years ago,'" he said.
Women have a right to early abortion. Choice is theirs. Down Syndrome is 1 of the commonest & most moral reasons to exercise that right.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 21, 2014