New Zealand Press Council,
Re: Complaint against Auckland Now – “A Woman’s right to choose.”
Right to Life New Zealand Inc wish to make a complaint against an article written by Richard Boock, that was published by Stuff on the website “Auckland Now” on 8th December 2011. The title of the article was “A woman’s right to choose,” a copy of which is enclosed. Our complaint is that the article contravened the Principles of the Press Council, specifically Principle 1, 3 and 6.
Richard Boock in his article has made statements about people with Down syndrome that are deeply offensive and devalue their lives and implies that they have lives unworthy of living. His views are eugenic and promote the dangerous philosophy that only the perfect have a right to be born. This is an important issue. It is a well documented fact that the notorious T4 programme introduced in Nazi Germany in 1939, prior to the Second World War sought to eliminate “undesirables” and to achieve racial purity, commenced with the murder of those with Down syndrome and other disabilities and culminated with the “final solution” of the murder of 6 million Jews in concentration camps. The media played an important role in conditioning the German nation to accept the eugenic cleansing of the population. It is contended that the article written by Richard Boock is perhaps unwittingly assisting in encouraging the public into accepting the need for the elimination before birth of those with Down syndrome. The article directly expresses the view that such a practice is a “woman’s right” It is important that we learn from history lest we repeat the same human tragedies.
Richard Boock states:
“many are even making bizarre claims about a need to maintain the presence of children with Down syndrome , as if they view them as some sort of endangered species.”
This statement infers that persons with Down syndrome are not welcome in our community and that they could be viewed as worthy of eradication. Society should therefore not be concerned about maintaining the presence of people with Down syndrome in our community. This is discrimination and is in violation of the New Zealand Bill of Rights that prohibits discrimination against other persons. It is also in violation of the government’s Disability Strategy which seeks to develop a more inclusive society for the disabled. The Hon Lianne Dalziel, when Minister of Disability issues, stated:
“The Government will take the lead – but we will also be doing everything we can to influence the attitudes and behaviour of society as a whole. All New Zealanders need to consider issues for disabled people and their aspirations as individuals. We must also consider the families and wh?nau of disabled people, and others who support them.”
The New Zealand government is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which states;
“States Parties shall prohibit all discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantee to persons with disabilities equal and effective legal protection against discrimination on all grounds.”
It is contended that we all have a duty to promote an inclusive society for those with a disability. The media and journalists have a special responsibility to promote an inclusive society which welcomes and values the contribution that those with Down syndrome and other disabilities make to society.
It was factually incorrect and a breach of Principle 4, for the writer to state on the subject of voluntary antenatal screening and the killing of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome that:
“There is no suggestion of coercion or persuasion or encouragement one way or the other”
Members of Savingdowns and members of the Down syndrome community can personally testify to being encouraged to have an abortion based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome or Spina Bifida and even offers to allow babies to be starved to death after birth if they are “disabled” .
Richard Boock describes those who consider that antenatal screening for Down syndrome is eugenics as “bat- shit crazy.” This is factually incorrect and also in breach of Principle 4.The sole purpose of early antenatal screening for Down syndrome is to offer abortions to mothers solely on the basis of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. This has the consequence of reducing the number of births of these babies and has the same objective.
Eugenics is the “applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population”, usually referring to human populations. (“Eugenics”, Unified Medical Language System (Psychological Index Terms) National Library of Medicine, 26 Sep. 2010.)
The international Down syndrome community recognise the early antenatal screening as eugenic. The National Down Syndrome Congress in Atlanta, Georgia in 2010 in a media release stated,” — While information in and of itself is neither good nor bad, the NDSC is concerned about first trimester tests, as the primary reason for them is to facilitate early terminations. Other reasons for prenatal diagnosis, such as hospital selection and delivery management, do not require first trimester testing.” It is important for the community to have an informed debate about eugenics and the threat that it poses for our nation. Richard Boock’s rejection that the antenatal screening as eugenic in its purpose, is a denial of the truth and covering up the eugenic purpose of the screening.
It is contended that the article also breaches Principle 3. Children and Young People. The article could have a detrimental effect on the attitudes of those who read it, causing them to discriminate against those with Down syndrome or those that have a disability both before birth and after birth. Today those children with Down syndrome or disabilities are main-streamed in our educational system. This attitude of discriminating against the disabled could affect the way children and adults with Down syndrome are treated in school and in our society in general.
Right to Life is a national pro-life organisation that has as its objective to uphold the right to life of every person from conception to natural death. Our Association is privileged to support the Savingdowns organisation which is an advocacy group of parents and siblings of children with Down syndrome. Right to Life has joined with Savingdowns in laying a complaint against the New Zealand government for crimes against humanity including genocide for breaches of the Treaty of Rome. The complaint is in respect to the government’s antenatal screening programme that targets unborn babies with Down syndrome to prevent their births.
In conclusion we fully support the right of free speech in a democratic society. But with rights come responsibilities. We are pleased to have this opportunity to speak up in defense of our unborn with Down syndrome and other disabilities who cannot defend themselves. It is abhorrent that Richard Boock has attacked and insulted the families of those with siblings who have Down syndrome which devalues the lives of their children. This is a gross misuse of freedom of speech. The article of Richard Boock will not help to promote an all inclusive society where those with Down syndrome or a disability are welcomed and valued.