The UK Independence party has suspended one of its election candidates who suggested that mothers carrying foetuses with Down syndrome or Spina Bifida should be forced to have abortions to avoid the child being “a burden on the state as well as on the family”.
This is our open letter to Geoffrey Clark, the candidate concerned.
Dear Geoffrey Clark,
In your personal manifesto you called for a review of:
“compulsory abortion when the foetus is detected as having Downs, Spina Bifida or similar syndrome which, if it is born, could render the child a burden on the state as well as on the family. “
These words are deeply offensive to the disability community, and especially to those with Down syndrome and Spina Bifida. This attitude devalues the life of all people with disabilities and indeed all human life, as none of us are perfect.
Compulsory abortion of the disabled is eugenics. There is no place for eugenics in a civilised society. In is contrary to all the principles of human rights, human responsibility, dignity and worth.
People with Down syndrome and Spina Bifida are neither a burden on the state or their families. Such concepts are false and outdated. These people are loved and valued members of their families and society. Please take the time to meet these people before you condemn them to death.
So, what exactly are we talking about here then? Here is my family:
I choose this particular picture because you can see the love and joy between mother and daughter, the human face of this issue. The beautiful lady is my wife Rae, the delightful young girl is our daughter Rebecca – she is blessed with the extra love chromosome (what you have referred to as Downs, but she is not a Downs, she is a four-year old girl).
So what of your proposal of compulsory abortion? How does this particular proposal of yours work? It doesn’t really warrant too much thought, but it is your proposal, so you sort of have an ethical obligation to explain how it would work in practice. I have a few questions.
How is the abortion carried out against the mother’s will? Would my wife have been subjected to violence, if so by who (Doctors)? Would she be at risk from an enforced abortion? What ill effects may she have as a result?
For Rebecca, innocent and unprotected, she would have just been condemned to death.
What of me? As a father and husband I would defend them against this abhorrent life ending violence. What would you do with me when I stand in defence of my family?
But Geoffrey is doesn’t even stop here, which to be fair, is pretty bad as it stands. You see, Rebecca wasn’t diagnosed prenatally; she was diagnosed five days after birth. We refused any prenatal tests. She was a planned and wanted child. We wouldn’t risk her death from an invasive test; we will love our children unconditionally. But you think she is a burden and should have been aborted? Does you proposal then mean that she should have been taken from us and killed? After all, that is the ethical equivalent of what you are proposing – enforced infanticide of the disabled.
You see Geoffrey, and please understand this: people with Down syndrome, Spina Bifida and this and that are our fellow human beings. They have inherent dignity and value just like you and me. Our children are not commodities for selecting based on eugenic theories and failed concepts of burden. The measure of our society is how we treat others with the love, it really is that simple.
The time has come to throw away this type of lost and failed thinking, which in the final analysis is simply based in ignorance and fear. These have never been the basis for right action.
It is now time to choose love over fear and embrace the simple truth that all life is precious.