Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Richard Dawkins and abortion

Words matter. When I was nine years old, I was victim to a disability hate crime that was so traumatic it took me over a decade until I reported it to the police. The person who committed this offence knew that I had a disability, developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia). In a public place, they stated, in mind of self-care, social and mobility difficulties: "That child should have been abortion."

Disabled people regularly face, perhaps usually in more subtle and subliminal forms, the implication of their inherently burdensome presence, or facetiously, sympathy for the supposedly inherently unbearable nature of this existence. In their most extreme form, these ethos motivated the "mercy killing" of Nazi Germany's Action T4 regime (which is a relevant historical observation rather than a mere example of Godwin's law).

Of course, childbearers should not be shamed or stigmatised by their decision to medically end a pregnancy. This could indeed be because of a child's disability; severe mutations causing immense suffering within a very short lifespan. But persons with Down's syndrome are unlike these cases, given that many of them lead fulfilling lives in the shelter of relatives and friends who love and cherish them. They chosen and valued, with the implication that they are uniformly, innately shameful or defective being the most damaging influence on their quality of life. The greatest suffering they face is probably such ignorance and prejudice, which is why Richard Dawkins, if he is a humanist, should rethink the ethical basis for his remarks.

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