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Thought

We’re the same as everyone else

In a recent interview with Irish radio host Brendan O’Connor, who has a daughter with Down’s syndrome, the geneticist Richard Dawkins said it is “wise and sensible” to abort babies who have either Down’s syndrome or are deaf or blind in order to “increase the amount of happiness in the world.” In 2014 Dawkins told a woman who said she would face “a real ethical dilemma” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice.”

In 2014 Dawkins explained his thinking: “If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.” When Brendan O’Connor pressed him, he said he didn’t know for certain that disabled people increase suffering and there is no direct evidence. He also admitted he didn’t know intimately anyone with Down’s syndrome.

The nihilist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who said “God is dead”, understood the implications of this statement, “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet.” Nihilism is a philosophy that denies the existence of genuine moral truths and asserts the ultimate meaninglessness of life or of the universe. Such thinking does not “increase the sum of happiness” but is a counsel of despair.

Heidi Crowter is a wonderful example of how people with Down’s syndrome enrich all our lives. After she was born, Heidi was diagnosed with leukaemia, pneumonia, kidney failure and needed open-heart surgery. Heidi left school with GCSEs and, until lockdown, worked at Raspberry Kids Hair Salon in Coventry. In July 2020, when she was 24, she married James. They are both Christians. Heidi is proud of all she has achieved and laughingly says, “My mum didn’t think I’d get married – well boy, didn’t I blow that out the window.”

On 6 and 7 July, Heidi is going to the High Court in London to attempt to change the law surrounding the abortion of babies with Down’s syndrome. Heidi was devastated when she learned that 90% of women whose unborn children are diagnosed with Down’s terminate their pregnancies. Under the present law such pregnancies can be terminated up to birth. Heidi says, “I just want people to see that we’re the same as everyone else.”

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Thought

Omar Hassan – the importance of finishing the race

Paralympics 2012 has been a very special occasion, with many outstanding performances. From the British Team we remember those who won several medals, such as swimmer Ellie Simpson, wheel chair athlete David Weir and cyclist Sarah Storey. London 2012 was a landmark for Paralympic sport which is still developing. Many new world records were set and major television channels will show more interest in covering the Rio games in 2016!

Whilst the focus was, understandably, on winners, the performance of amputee Omar Hassan, who came last in a heat of the 1500 metres T46 category, exemplifies the spirit of the all Paralympics’ athletes. Omar was the first, and only, athlete from the tiny country of Djibouti on the Red Sea to compete in the Paralympics. Omar had trained hard for the greatest race of his life. From the moment the starter’s gun fired he strained his Achilles tendon. Many athletes with such an injury would have stopped running immediately, but Omar continued to run. Despite the great pain he was in he finished the race, finishing nearly 7 minutes behind the other athletes. The crowd gave him a continuous standing ovation and, when he finished, one of the greatest cheers of the whole Paralympics. After the race Omar pointed to his right foot and said it was “very sore.” He went on to say, “I thought of stopping, but I kept going because I wanted to finish.”

Many commentators have said that this Paralympic Games has changed the way we view disabled people. This indicates that the biggest problem is with us, not with them. It is our values that need to change. We make a fuss of the rich and famous and see them as the role models whom we should all seek to follow. Sadly, however, they are sometimes deeply flawed people. The disabled people who have competed at London 2012 have shown us that through the experience of disability they have become more complete people.

The apostle Paul suffered greatly as he faithfully served his Lord, Jesus Christ; he was beaten, imprisoned and shipwrecked. Near the end of his life he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”