There’s no doubt that medical advances in the field of fertility have made many women’s dreams come true. But with it come huge ethical dilemmas. This month the condition of Down Syndrome has hit the headlines on more than one occasion. It serves to show what complex times we’re living in when it comes to giving birth to babies.
First there was the story of an Australian couple who had twins from a surrogate in Thailand. They left the country with the healthy baby girl and left the Down Syndrome baby boy behind. When the story first emerged, press reports said that the couple claimed that they had no idea two babies had been born. My instant reaction was this had to be rubbish because I don’t believe that any couple who have been to these sorts of lengths to create a family wouldn’t know that their surrogate was carrying twins. What has subsequently emerged is an even more muddled and murky story. If you’ve got a strong stomach, watch the interview with the couple involved on the Australian TV show 60 minutes.
Then this week the scientist, Richard Dawkins, added to the Down Syndrome debate when he tweeted that it would be immoral to carry on a pregnancy if the mother knew the foetus had the condition. The reaction towards his comments was vitriolic as you might imagine. In a longer defence of his 140 characters he wrote on his website:
“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.”
Medical science has given us the chance to create a baby in another woman’s womb and to test to see whether that foetus has an extra copy of Chromosome 21, the indicator of Down’s. But are these choices always a good thing? Should we just accept the babies we’re given and not given? That’s the ethical dilemma.