University of North Carolina Suggests Abortion for Down Syndrome Babies

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 17, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

University of North Carolina Prof Suggests Abortion for Down Syndrome Babies Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 17,

Chapel Hill, NC ( — A University of North Carolina professor is under fire for suggesting that parents who discover their unborn child will have Down syndrome should have abortions. The comments offended one student who has a brother with the condition and highlighted attempts by disabilities groups to head off abortion as a solution to the disability.

Professor Albert Harris told his embryology students last week that babies who have Down syndrome should be aborted.

"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," he said, according to a Raleigh news and Observer report.

Harris has taught at the college for 35 years and he told the newspaper he’s made the pro-abortion statement several times before in an attempt to spark discussion.

He told the newspaper he has no apologies for the remark.

"I know somebody who had a child like this, and it ruined their life," he said.

Ironically, he also indicated he likely wouldn’t have an abortion if he and his wife were pregnant with a disabled baby.

But Lara Frame, a senior in the biology class, told the Raleigh newspaper the comment offended her because she has a brother with the condition.

"Biology is not an opinion subject," she said. "It’s a facts-based subject. And though abortion is legal, it’s not a fact that you should abort every baby with Down syndrome."

Harris’ comment comes at time when Down syndrome advocacy groups are dealing with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has been suggesting all pregnant women test for disabilities and consider an abortion if a baby is disabled.

Studies have shown anywhere from 59 to 92 percent of pregnancies end in abortion when a baby with Down syndrome is involved.

Amy Allison, executive director of the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City, told the Associated Press, "I think you can see rather quickly why our community would be concerned about it when you are talking about eliminating a whole race of people."

Pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback has worked on a Congressional bill that would require physicians to provide more information to prospective parents about raising a child with Down syndrome and referrals to help networks.

ACTION: Contact UNC about Professor Harris at Office of the Chancellor, 103 South Building, Campus Box 9100, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-9100. Email [email protected], call (919) 962-1365 or fax (919) 962-1647.