Americans reject Dawkins' Down's Syndrome statement

August 26, 2014, 4:05 PM GMT+0

People overwhelmingly disagree with Richard Dawkins when he said that it is immoral to not abort a fetus with Down's Syndrome, with many disapproving of getting an abortion at all in that case

Prominent scientist and controversial anti-religion activist Richard Dawkins prompted controversy last week when he said on Twitter that someone should 'abort it and try again' if antenatal tests discovered that a child would have Down's Syndrome. He also said that not getting an abortion when you know that the child would have Down's Syndrome would be 'immoral'. The comments prompted a backlash both on Twitter and elsewhere, with particularly strong condemnation coming from Down's Syndrone charities.

The latest research from YouGov shows that American overwhelmingly disagree with Richard Dawkins's statement. Asked whether they agreed or disagreed that it would be 'immoral to bring a baby with Down's Syndrome into the world if you have the choice' only 15% of Americans agreed, while 62% disagreed. There was wide consensus on the issue, and even people who say that abortion should 'always' be legal disagree (43%) more than agree (29%) with Dawkins.

People tend to disapprove of getting an abortion if tests indicate the child would have Down's Syndrome, with 38% approving and 47% disapproving of such a decision. The public does sympathize more with mothers getting an abortion if the child would have another 'severe birth defect'. 48% of Americans support a mother who chooses to abort a fetus with a severe birth defect, while 33% disapprove.

Dawkins has issued a partial apology for his statement, saying that he was sorry for the 'feeding frenzy' caused by his tweets and that his phrasing left him 'vulnerable to misunderstanding'.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: PA