Sunday 26 January 2020

Barnardos chief likens Dawkins to Hitler over abortion comments

Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos with actor, Maclean Burke after he had performed in 'Joe Prop' at the Axis Theatre, Ballymun
Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos with actor, Maclean Burke after he had performed in 'Joe Prop' at the Axis Theatre, Ballymun
Richard Dawkins

Michael Staines

THE chief executive of Barnardos children's charity has compared scientist Richard Dawkins to the Nazis over his assertion that it is "immoral" to knowingly give birth to a baby with Down syndrome.

Mr Dawkins told a female follower on Twitter who was unsure of what she would do if pregnant with a Down syndrome baby: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said he was "staggered" to read the comments yesterday.

"I passionately believe that anybody who says the moral thing to do is to abort a child with Down syndrome is promoting the science of Eugenics," he said.

"Eugenics is the science whereby you weed out the weak in order to ensure that you end up with the strongest possible race … and the last person who promoted that science was Adolf Hitler."

On his own web page, Mr Dawkins addressed what he called the "feeding frenzy" that erupted on Twitter following his comments.

"What I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most [of] us, I presume, espouse," he said.

"Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort … indeed, that is what the great majority of women in America and especially in Europe actually do."

Mr Finlay, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, likened the idea to aborting a foetus on the basis that it might become a drain on the state in later life.

"This has nothing to with the wider argument about abortion and the needs of vulnerable women," he said.

"It is the most pernicious and immoral argument possible in my view and I think it is impossible to respect anyone who puts that point of view forward."

He said that any decision to abort would always lie with his wife.

"I don't want to be lectured by anybody on the choices that I or my wife should make, I don't want to be told what is moral or what is immoral about those kinds of choices," he said.


Mr Dawkins said he regretted the "abbreviated phraseology" he had used, pointing to the 140-character limit on Twitter.

He put what he described as the "haters" who had been angered by his words into different categories including those who are against abortion under any circumstance and those who took offence on an emotional basis because they love someone with Down syndrome.

He said he had sympathy for the "emotional point" but called it illogical.

He insisted that he never intended to advocate a eugenic policy adding that because Down syndrome is not hereditary a person who was "eugenically inclined" would be wasting their time screening for the condition.

Mr Finlay said the eugenic distinction did not change his view of the comments.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News