Except that, of course, it’s not a baby. It’s a fetus. A potential life – which is apparently very different. For one thing, he (or she) must earn the right to exist. If that child is flawed or substandard; if the foot that nudged my husband’s hand is say, deformed or misshapen, well obviously we have the right to withdraw all protection and care. In fact, it’s our moral duty to do so.
Yesterday, a woman tweeted Richard Dawkins with these words, ‘I don’t know what I’d do if I had a Down’s Syndrome baby. It’s a real ethical dilemma.’
Dawkins responded: ‘Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice’.
There’s been an outcry in response – and rightly so. But Dawkins is not just articulating his point of view. He’s describing what is already happening.
At a certain point in your pregnancy, you’re offered a scan. The scan checks to see if your baby is developing normally. And if that child is not, then you can make the decision to terminate it. In fact, you will often be encouraged to do so.
So let’s say, your fetus has Down’s Syndrome. What do you do next? I’m not asking what you should do, or what you might do. What actually happens? In the UK. Every year.
92% of those babies diagnosed with DS, are aborted.
Which puts the furore about Dawkins into a slightly different context. As he tweeted himself: “Apparently I’m a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted.”
Dawkins is merely putting an “ought” where, overwhelmingly, our culture has put an “is”. He is simply defending our current practice as moral. What’s fascinating is that people find his views abhorrent but not the actual practice, ( nearly 1000 Downs babies aborted last year).
There have been different responses to Dawkins. One is to point out the wonderful quality of life which people with Down’s Syndrome achieve (99% describe themselves as “happy” – an incredible statistic) – and I can think of one wee girl who melts your heart just to look at her. But whilst this is a striking stat, she, and others like her don’t earn protection because of their cuteness. Nobody earns life – not natural life and not spiritual life. It’s all a gift from our Father in heaven. This is why Christians have always stood up for the unborn – because life is not a right to earn. It’s a gift to receive.
If as Christians, we’re shocked at Dawkins’ comments, let’s be more outraged at his theology. And let’s pray for him and a lost world that – whether it acknowledges it or not – basically follows his thinking. He is only articulating the lie we’ve believed since the garden: that life is to be grasped at through our strength. Instead as we love the unborn, let’s be people of grace – those who receive and those who also give.