Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has waded into yet another controversy with a series of tweets defending abortion as the moral choice for fetuses that test positive for Down syndrome.
Controversy set off when Dawkins tweeted a link to a story about restrictive abortions laws in Ireland, writing, "Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area ...You'd think the Roman Church would have lost all influence."
While that was general enough, a Twitter user named Aidan McCour decided to challenge Dawkins' abortion contention.
"994 human beings with Down's Syndrome deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012. Is that civilised?," McCour tweeted to the famed atheist activist.
And that's when Dawkins sparked outrage with his response claiming that these abortions are, indeed, "civilized." He wrote, "Yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings."
.@AidanMcCourt Yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
When another Twitter user weighed in saying that she wasn't sure what she'd do if her fetus had Down syndrome and called such a scenario a "real ethical dilemma," Dawkins offered up his proposed solution: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."
@TonyD048 I think abortion is right if the woman wants an abortion. Down syndrome is one very good, and extremely common reason, to want it.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
The conversation didn't end there. Dawkins noted that the majority of Down syndrome fetuses in the United States and Europe are aborted and that his recommendation is actually "the norm."
He then seemingly attempted to differentiate his contention that abortion is the most moral path forward from the notion that those living now with Down syndrome should have had their lives terminated long ago.
"There's a profound moral difference between 'This fetus should now be aborted' and 'This person should have been aborted years ago,'" Dawkins wrote.
The famed atheist continued to respond to critics and to address the issue throughout the day Wednesday, refusing to apologize or back down for advocating what he said is the most common choice for women whose fetuses test positive for Downs syndrome.
"I think abortion is right if the woman wants an abortion. Down syndrome is one very good, and extremely common reason, to want it," Dawkins wrote, later adding, "Women have a right to early abortion. Choice is theirs. Down Syndrome is 1 of the commonest & most moral reasons to exercise that right."
Dawkins' comments obviously sparked some intense and emotional responses. Here are just some of the reactions:
@RichardDawkins you're not a victim. You described the retention of a DS foetus (and therefore birth of DS baby) as immoral— malc mcgookin (@malcmcgookin) August 20, 2014
@RichardDawkins suffer. What next? Abortive babies carrying the breast cancer gene? Or any genetic disease. What a scary idea of society.— ☆ BRONTË-SAURUS ☆ (@Fufu_Manchu) August 20, 2014
@RichardDawkins there it is folks - how atheism can lead to fundamentally evil assumptions— Trending (@Trending777) August 21, 2014
.@RichardDawkins This is not a pro-life issue. You're insulting good people and devaluing their existence, ass.— John H (@JHammon67) August 21, 2014
@RichardDawkins you are a hero of mine and i love you, but people with down syndrome can a wonderful quality of life. You are wrong.— Conor (@conorwhufc) August 20, 2014
@RichardDawkins u disgusting unfollowed creature. How dare you Suggest such a thing. So glad I didn't buy any of your shit.— Michelle Pattison (@MichellePat4) August 20, 2014
Read the entire conversation for yourself here.