Labour Leader David Cunliffe announced yesterday that former Alliance Party President Matt McCarten would be his new Chief of Staff.
The Labour Party has a number of noble principles, including the entitlement of dignity for all people, and the protection of basic human rights regardless of disability. Principles we hold dearly.
The thing is though; Matt McCarten thinks people with Down syndrome are not worthy of life. Now, that’s awkward for a Chief of Staff for a political party that promotes dignity and non-discrimination.
“You know, when you talk about Down’s syndrome, for a woman to be told, you’re talking about 80% to 90% decide to terminate. It’s kind of a no-brainer. You know, you kind of get that.”
Did you get that? He said it is a no brainer to have an abortion for Down syndrome.
A no brainer, as in:
“An easy decision requiring little or no thought.”
Usually for, things like, not playing cricket in the rain.
Or having an abortion for Down syndrome, according to Matt. As if it’s easy for a women with a wanted pregnancy to go down that route after going to her midwife to prepare for the birth of her child.
Factually, he is actually wrong. And he is more than offensive in devaluing our children.
He’s wrong about the 80% to 90% statistic. In New Zealand around half of our pregnant women don’t even test for Down syndrome. Of the half that does test, accurate numbers that choose to terminate are not known. We have many parents here who had positive tests and continued with their pregnancies. Off course we do.
He’s offensive in devaluing our children. Suggesting that for parents it is a “no-brainer” to terminate for Down syndrome is hurtful to millions of families. It lowers the dignity of all of our loved ones who have Down syndrome, their families, and all those living with disability.
He even shows an ablest bias towards one choice over another.
And, he makes a mockery of the Labour Party’s commitment to human dignity and non-discrimination against those living with disability.
McCarten’s attitude towards those with disabilities is unwelcome. His senior appointment raises serious questions as to the credibility of the Labour Party’s basic understanding and commitment to disability rights.
I could say more, but I said it on Q&A before he spoke. Presenter Susan Woods wondered why I wanted to save Down syndrome. Maybe McCarten didn’t really listen and hear what I said in reply, so I’ll repeat it again:
“Because they’re a natural part of our human diversity, and that diversity is a thread that connects human beings as a community and a society, and it’s a part of what we are and we’re all connected, and we should learn as a society to embrace every child as they are, as a human being that holds dignity like everyone else.”
Which ironically, is not far off the Labour Party’s own principles.
If only their staff would abide by them.
Footnote: The full interview of Mike Sullivan can be viewed at: