August 29, 2014

NYT Op-Ed Goes After Richard Dawkins’ Down Syndrome Abortion Advocacy

Apparently, Richard Dawkins’ aggressive advocacy for aborting babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome and the potential damage it could inflict on the pro-abortion movement was too much for even the New York Times to handle.

On August 20, Matthew Balan at NewsBusters covered Dawkins’ vile position and his equally vile way of expressing it (“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice”). Several NewsBusters commenters noted that the presence of Down Syndrome in pre-born babies can be and has been misdiagnosed in babies born perfectly healthy. In a Thursday New York Times op-ed published in Friday’s print edition, Jamie Edgin and Fabian Fernandez conveyed the results of studies finding that Dawkins’ assumption that families with a Down Syndrome child are predominantly miserable is (excuse the pun) dead wrong.

The authors almost got to where they needed to go, but chickened out on the most paramount issue by focusing only on what they called “the facts” (bolds are mine):

The Truth About Down Syndrome


Mr. Dawkins suggested that his view was rooted in the moral principle of reducing overall suffering whenever possible — in this case, that of individuals born with Down syndrome and their families.

But Mr. Dawkins’s argument is flawed. … because his understanding of the facts is mistaken. Recent research indicates that individuals with Down syndrome can experience more happiness and potential for success than Mr. Dawkins seems to appreciate.

There are, of course, many challenges facing families caring for children with Down syndrome, including a high likelihood that their children will face surgery in infancy and Alzheimer’s disease in adulthood. But at the same time, studies have suggested that families of these children show levels of well-being that are often greater than those of families with children with other developmental disabilities, and sometimes equivalent to those of families with nondisabled children. These effects are prevalent enough to have been coined the “Down syndrome advantage.”

In 2010, researchers reported that parents of preschoolers with Down syndrome experienced lower levels of stress than parents of preschoolers with autism. In 2007, researchers found that the divorce rate in families with a child with Down syndrome was lower on average than that in families with a child with other congenital abnormalities and in those with a nondisabled child.

In another study, 88 percent of siblings reported feeling that they themselves were better people for having a younger sibling with Down syndrome; and of 284 respondents to a survey of those with Down syndrome over the age of 12, 99 percent stated they were personally happy with their own lives.

Researchers (including one of us) have found that children and young adults with Down syndrome have significantly higher “adaptive” skills than their low I.Q. scores might suggest.

… Recent work also suggests that the cognitive impairment that is a hallmark of Down syndrome might eventually be managed by medical interventions.

… Another area of research concerns Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Virtually all people with Down syndrome show Alzheimer’s neuropathology by age 40, though not all develop clinical symptoms of the full-blown disease. Studies are underway to examine the neural underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease at these early ages, in the hope of providing preventive treatments in those with Down syndrome.

In whatever moral calculation Mr. Dawkins and others may wish to make, these facts deserve to be accorded their full weight.

The problem with the authors’ piece lies in two places: the final bolded excerpt above, and in wording I deliberately omitted from the second excerpted paragraph, namely, “Not because his moral reasoning is wrong, necessarily (that is a question for another day) …” In other words, they wouldn’t take what they found to its logical conclusion.

Dawkins’ “moral reasoning,” which is not moral at all, is not “a question for another day.” It is the question. Does a pre-born baby have the God-given inalienable right to life this country’s Founders identified, or is it disposable at the whims of the baby’s parents?

The obvious morally correct answer can only be the former. The tragic choice this country has made is that it can and should be the latter — something which Dawkins, as Balan noted in his post, celebrates (“What I recommended is not outlandish but the norm”). Dawkins typifies the national ugliness and callousness 40-plus years of legalized abortion have wrought. Happy Down Syndrome patients and their families give lie to the proabort propaganda that happiness lies only in perfection and lack of challenge. Even the New York Times found Dawkins’ crude expression of where proabort “logic” takes you too much to take.

Cross-posted at


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