Sunday, February 24, 2008

The soapbox is on fire this week!

the news report:

the NDSC response:

Atlanta, GA -- February 22, 2008 -- According to a Raleigh News and Observer report and articles in a number of other journals, biology professor Albert Harris of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has stated, "In my opinion, the moral thing for older mothers to do is to have amniocentesis, as soon during pregnancy as is safe for the fetus, test whether placental cells have a third chromosome 21, and abort the fetus if it does,"

While Professor Harris qualified his statement as his "opinion" the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) finds the professor has violated basic academic standards by expressing an opinion based on personal, anecdotal experience in a classroom setting.

Reports suggest that Harris did so to spark discussion and debate. The NDSC would welcome that; however, we find Harris adds nothing to a debate which has been ongoing for sometime. He cites the fact that his opinion is based on the experience of one acquaintance whose life was, according to him, "ruined' by a child with Down syndrome. Instead of basing his opinion on facts, his own research or a clear understanding of the key points underpinning the debate, Harris has inserted his personal and quite obviously prejudicial opinion into an academic forum. In doing so, he has abused his responsibility to his students, colleagues and university. He has also inflicted unnecessary pain on people with Down syndrome and their families.

Down syndrome is the most common naturally occurring cause of developmental delay. Occurring once in every 800 to 1000 live births, the syndrome affects approximately 350,000 Americans. Down syndrome impacts people across an extremely wide range, however it is rare for it to be, in fact, ruinous by any definition.

The contrary is more often the case. NDSC Executive Director David Tolleson notes, "We are in constant contact with a large, vigorous national and international community of people with Down syndrome, their families and the professionals who support them. Additionally, published academic studies have found that most people with a family member with Down syndrome consider the experience to be a positive one." Far from ruining lives, our families consistently report that their sons, daughters or siblings with Down syndrome enhance their lives and bring them great joy. A quick scan of the internet will produce many examples of people with Down syndrome who are embraced and valued by their families and communities. In the post secondary world, people with Down syndrome increasingly attend college and take their places as loyal, productive and valued employees.

We question how any of that can be termed "ruinous."

We therefore ask Professor Harris to retract his statement. In doing so, we also request that the professor make an appropriate apology to his students, explain clearly that his statement was a personal opinion and has no scientific basis and make every effort to convey to them current, accurate facts regarding Down syndrome. Should Professor Harris decline to do so, we call upon the University of North Carolina to investigate this incident and take appropriate disciplinary action.

and i TRIED not to be too hateful, but my response via email to Harris:

I am so sorry that you've had a bad experience with someone close to you whose child had Trisomy 21.

It definitely is the the exception to the rule, and after reading your Hitler-like opinion, I do hope you take a second and broaden your mind by listening to the opposing argument. You might want to start by reading "Expecting Adam" written by a HARVARD PHD, Martha Beck, who like me, DID have an amnio, and DID decide to enhance the world by bringing her child to term.

I know it's difficult in the academic world, to imagine a brain not in the genius level, but trust me, there is a whole world out there that operates just fine at other levels. In fact, our country would cease to exist should we lose the diversity that founded it.

There is no need to target an entire group of people for mass genocide to improve the nation. Using that logic it would follow that if we were to abort every fetus who had the possibility of a HIGHER I.Q., we would have saved ourselves the history of Ted Bundy and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. In fact, continuing to use your logic, maybe it would be safer for us just to gather up all the 'Teds' in the nation and kill them! Are you understanding the irony?

This is a quote that I like

""Respectful support begins with the recognition that individuals with disabilities are not abnormal or deficient but, instead, reflect the normal diversity of the human community"

Our children ARE part of this world, and DO reflect the natural order of the world. They definitely give back, more than they take, and if you would take the time to research ALL of them, instead of basing your opinion on a few, you would improve yourself as a lecturer that is PAID TO EDUCATE, not paid to teach hate, not paid to instruct in the benefits of a SUPERIOR RACE.

We, as parents of children with special needs, will be contacting your Dean with OUR opinions, with the same force that the US liberated
Germany when they were under rule of a tyrant, who also shared your opinion.

Eileen Wilson
West Plains, MO

Parent of children that range from genius to special needs, and who has EXPERIENCED the necessity for ALL of them to be in our world.
oh yes...the professor's email addy is:

and the chancellor's

If this man choses to teach, than that's fine, he does NOT need to be 'teaching' in this manner AT A STATE FUNDED UNIVERSITY! If his intention was to spark a debate (which is really unnecessary in a science class) then there would have BEEN a debate...he's expressed the opinion before. There is no discussion, he JUST TEACHES HIS OPINION! that is NOT a DEBATE...that is NOT EDUCATION!

I hope you join me, as parents, in voicing our opinions. We are TRYING to teach the next generation of the preciousness of our children....If these students go on to be physicians, we will be stuck in the mentality that afflicts us today


Julia said...

On February 18th I sent Mr. Harris an email stating I would like him to respond to me in his own words about what had been said. I was outraged by what I had read but wanted confirmation before reacting.
Here is his reply:
"No, the class discussion was about what advice to give
to women older than 40 or 45 who get pregnant,
and what risks they are running of major birth defects.
The students in this class are all pre-meds and pre nursing
and almost all are seniors. So these are moral questions they
are going to face quite soon. I teach the underlying
biological facts: what can go wrong, and why.

Previously small vocal minorities have claimed that all abortions are murder.
That prevents others from discussing anything related to that,
such as amniocentesis, and who should be advised to have it.
I naively thought that I could deflect those vocal guys onto
me, away from other students. No student complained
about anything that I said or wrote, either in or after class.
34 students have signed a petition saying I said nothing objectionable;
two signed a petition saying the opposite.

The News and Observer has done something very bad here,
which among other things will have the net effect of encouraging
abortions, which I am against.

But the majority of Down’s Syndrome fetuses die before their
first birthday. I didn’t tell the students that, because I didn’t
want to upset them; and I don’t want to upset you either.
The happy smiling ones are a lucky minority, to be cherished,
but birth defects are not something to be risked without
the most serious thought.

Please ask yourself how you would feel if a reporter calls and
wants to question you about a conversation, or something
you wrote in an e-mail?

That’s how I feel."


I have yet too reply being that I am still flabergasted. Most of what he said was baseless and now I wonder if he should be allowed to teach and form minds for reasons other than his immoralism. I found his response to be cowardly, of little sense, and scientifically inaccurate.

Julia said...

OK, your post inspired me to go ahead and reply. Although, not poetic, here it is...

I don't want to upset you but...I find your response to be cowardly and a very bad attempt to cover your actions.

I could go on and on about who are we to say who is worthy of life but I figure you've heard it and obviously don't buy it.

You lost all credibility with me when first you stated that your students were all senior pre-med and nursing students and basically you were attempting prepare them for their futures (you were winning me over a bit at that point). But when you later stated, "But the majority of Down's Syndrome fetuses die before their first birthday. I didn't tell the students that, because I didn't want to upset them." Why the sudden coddling of soon to be med students? That alone discredited you completely!

I don't believe your death before 1st birthday data is correct but admittedly can't dispute it at this time. I will say, who cares? Who are we to say that a life of less that 1 year is a life not worth living? And, be warned, don't even go on about the pain to the family. I would then have to challenge you to find one credible account of a mother who had but a moment with her child and did not cherish it completely!

Besides, I would like the proof that a "fetus" has EVER experienced a 1st birthday...You are a biologist are you not???

e said...


#1...Only 9% of children born, are born to 'older mothers' Natuarally the phenomae occurs in birthing aged mothers...



i can't believe this man is teaching science!He needs to pick up some reference books THAT WEREN'T WRITTEN IN THE 30'S!!