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NC Chapel Hill Prof says unborn with Down syndrome should be aborted, some students peeved February 23, 2008

Posted by Daniel Downs in abortion, discrimination, health, life, news, politics, science, secularism.

The culture war is alive and well on North Carolina University’s Chapel Hill campus.

According to News & Observer reporter Samuel Spies, Professor Albert Harris told students in his embryology class Monday that he thinks fetuses with Down syndrome should be aborted.

In his lecture notes, he wrote:

“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. The brain is the last organ to become functional.”

Harris, 64, has taught embryology at UNC-CH for 35 years. He has made the statement about Down syndrome and abortion many times. He says it’s the moral thing to do because of the effect on families. “I know somebody who had a child like this, and it ruined their life,” he said.

“I’m trying in the most effective way possible to indicate that this is something that one can hold different opinions on. And I think it would be kind of weaselly to say it’s a secret what my opinion is. But maybe I should.”

Apparently, Prof. Harris presented in matter of fact way. Those on the conscientiously moral side of the culture war took offense at the seemingly blatant PC abortionist view. Some students didn’t like the professor’s personal opinion. One student said “biology is not an opinion subject… it is a fact-based subject.” Others believed the professor was attempting to brain wash them about the rightness of abortion.

Prof. Harris students were not the only one’s angered by his statement. Members of the local community were angered by Prof. Harris statement as well.

Janet Sellers is a program coordinator at a local school who works with children with Down syndrome and their families. She says these kids do not ruin their parent’s lives, but rather those kids have given her and their families with immense joy. Sellers says, “Many of these parents have told me that they would not change their child if they were able to.”

Amy Brinley agrees. She wrote, “My 33-year-old sister has a condominium and a job and plays sports. She enjoys her iPod, computer, needlepoint, books, movies and television shows. She subscribes to The News & Observer and shares many characteristics with other readers. She also has Down syndrome.” Those professionals who claim to know how life will be for those with this disability told her parents that she would be uneducatable, that she would numerous health problems, and that she would be dead by age twenty. They were wrong on all accounts.

“My sister has enriched the lives of our family, friends and almost everyone she encounters.”

Mary Rider is a mother of a child with Down’s syndrome. Her 13 year old daughter wants to know why Prof. Harris wants mothers to abort their babies who have it. She said, she is unable to explain it to her. Her response to Prof. Harris is that “[t]he potential for a less-than-average IQ should not determine whether someone lives or dies.”

Harris said he wouldn’t follow his own moral position. His wife, then 34, was pregnant with their third child when she suffered major bleeding. Doctors told the couple to prepare for the worst, according to Spies.

Quoting Professor Harris, he wrote: “If our child had been born with Down syndrome as we expected, we would have cherished her.”

The most likely reason Prof. Harris would not follow his own moral position is because wife does not follow it.



1. Law student - February 24, 2008

I think that the statement by Professor Harris is atrocious. It is not atrocious because it supports abortion. It is atrocious because it makes a statement about people who he has obviously had little contact with. It is similar to saying every person with brown eyes should be aborted because people with brown eyes ruin other peoples’ lives. He has made a bigoted statement against people have downs syndrome.

2. Paul - July 25, 2012

Prof. Harris is morally challenged. I am the father of six and our youngest has DS. Regardless of the medical, educational, emotional and societal challenges associated with raising a child with DS “riun” in not a word associated with having a DS child. The complete opposite is true. But if you are hiding behind the walls of a liberal institution your moral compass is thrown off by the magnetic pull created within. BTW there is a waiting list for adoption of children with DS. Don’t abort, we didn’t. Our family rejoices every day.

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