PC and abortion
Sir: It is heartwarming that Simon Barnes’s son should not suffer the stigma experienced by those with Down’s syndrome in earlier generations (‘In praise of PC’, 19 March). But is it not ironic that in this kinder, more generous and respectful age, over 90 per cent of fetuses diagnosed with Down’s are aborted? Rather than hiding the children away, we now ensure that most of them are not even born. If political correctness had really become sane, surely our kindness, generosity and respect would extend to the womb as well?
Sir: Simon Barnes, makes a couple of assumptions which do not bear scrutiny. He states that people born with an extra chromosome 21 (trisomy 21, or Down’s syndrome) were treated unkindly in the past. And he credits political correctness with the new kindness to his son, who was born with trisomy 21.
My brother Andy has trisomy 21 and suffers profound cognitive impairment. He grew up in apartheid South Africa. It would be difficult to imagine a more politically incorrect society — but Andy has been treated with kindness and tolerance for 48 years, in both the old and the new South Africa. Interestingly, the Afrikaans euphemism for trisomy 21 is ‘sonskyn kinders’ (sunshine children).
If political correctness is the careful choosing of words to prevent offence to others, it has a laudable goal. However, it seems to me that it is rather used to seek offence where none is intended. The ever- changing whims of acceptable terminology make language a minefield, creating shifting sands of victimhood.
This is amply illustrated by Mr Barnes not even being able to type the previous, now unfashionable term for trisomy 21. It is worth pointing out that John Langdon Down, who recognised the clinical features of the abnormality, used language now considered unacceptable.