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Open letter to Penguin Random House: Richard Dawkins said it is ‘wise and sensible’ to abort babies who have Down’s syndrome, it’s time to end your business relationship with him

Last week, Professor Richard Dawkins told a radio host who has a child with Down’s syndrome that it is “wise and sensible” to abort babies who have Down’s syndrome to “increase the amount of happiness in the world.”

These comments are not only discriminatory but are reminiscent of an inaccurate and outdated view of what life is like for people with Down’s syndrome and their families.

Penguin Random House publishes Richard Dawkins’ books. As a company, they make it clear that they “celebrate and actively promote diversity and inclusion in all its forms, including and not limited to the nine protected characteristics cited in The Equality Act 2010” including “disability”. They go on to say that “It is not acceptable to make dismissive or hostile remarks about a person on any basis or to make assumptions about someone’s lifestyle, interests or abilities.”

Yet they continue to do business and provide a large ongoing income to an individual who has continued to make uninformed, antiquated and deeply discriminatory remarks that have no place in a progressive and inclusive society.

If you are a person with Down’s syndrome or have a family member with Down’s syndrome, please sign the open letter below to Markus Dohle, the Chief Executive Officer of Penguin Random House, calling on them to end their business relationship with Richard Dawkins and stop publishing his books, unless he reconsiders his hurtful remarks regarding the Down’s Syndrome community.

This is an opportunity for a leading publisher to make it clear that such comments are totally unacceptable, and to let the wider community know about the positive lived experience of people with Down’s syndrome and their families.

SIGN THE OPEN LETTER NOW

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    Dear Markus Dohle, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Random House,

     

    We were alarmed to hear the comments from Richard Dawkins to a radio host who has a child with Down’s syndrome, that it is “wise and sensible” to abort babies with Down’s syndrome to “increase the amount of happiness in the world”.

     

    We recall his 2014 Twitter exchange in which he advised a user who said she would be faced with “a real ethical dilemma” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome, to “Abort it and try again” and that it “would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

     

    Although several years have passed since this incident, it is clear that he has failed to reconsider his approach.

     

    In the radio interview, Richard Dawkins explained that his reasoning for this view is that people with Down’s syndrome “increase suffering” in the world. This statement is not merely evidence of an incredibly superficial view of human joy and suffering, but it does not stand up to empirical scrutiny and, as he admitted, he has no “direct evidence” to support his views. 

     

    All humans are different, we all need support at different times and nobody’s ‘perfect’; that is part of humanity and what makes society rich and what makes life interesting.

     

    Studies have consistently shown that people with Down’s syndrome and their families report a high level of satisfaction with their lives. A 2011 study published by the American Journal of Medical Genetics showed that nearly 99% of people with Down’s syndrome indicated that they were happy with their lives. It also found that over 96% of brothers and sisters that responded to the survey indicated that they had affection toward their sibling with Down’s syndrome, and 94% of older siblings expressed feelings of pride. In 87% of the families surveyed, everyone expressed feeling love for members with Down’s syndrome, who in turn expressed love for the other family members.

     

    Every person who happens to have Down’s syndrome has strengths, challenges, talents and abilities the same as the rest of us.

     

    As a company, you make it clear that you “celebrate and actively promote diversity and inclusion in all its forms, including and not limited to the nine protected characteristics cited in The Equality Act 2010 including “disability”. You go on to say that “It is not acceptable to make dismissive or hostile remarks about a person on any basis or to make assumptions about someone’s lifestyle, interests or abilities”.

     

    It therefore follows that if you continue to provide a large ongoing income to an individual who has continued to make uninformed, antiquated and deeply discriminatory remarks that have no place in a progressive and inclusive society, you are in flagrant violation of your own policies, and risk endangering not only your company’s reputation, but your duty to your customers and staff. 

     

    We call on Penguin Random House to immediately end your business relationship with Richard Dawkins and stop publishing his books.

     

    Yours sincerely,