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Tasteless poll asks whether radio program characters should abort their unborn child who has Down Syndrome

by | Sep 12, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Bringing new meaning to the words tasteless and insensitive, fans of a British radio program, “The Archers,” were asked in a recent BBC poll whether the characters should abort the baby they had just found out had Down syndrome. The BBC eventually offered a quarter-hearted apology, but the poll ran until last Monday, completing its scheduled one-week run, and is still linked on Facebook.

After the characters Mike and Vicky Turner learn from an amniocentesis that their unborn baby has Down syndrome, the program’s official Facebook page asked for opinions: “Mike and Vicky’s dilemma makes up this week’s vote: should they go through with the pregnancy?”

The responses were largely either that the whole idea of a poll was tasteless or that the issue [whether to abort a child because the child has a disability] was too ‘complex” to be put to a vote.

“What a disgusting poll to run,” was one response. Others called it “disturbing and upsetting”, “crass”, “offensive” and “tasteless.” “This poll is incredibly insensitive and inappropriate and should be removed,” said another. “Yes/no” seems crass and insensitive.”

Still another fan posted this thoughtful response: “I agree that this is a distasteful poll. I also despair that the only way that tv and radio soaps can talk about people with learning disabilities is by ramping up the emotion factor. Why can’t they just have a person on the programme who happens to have Down’s? That would the best way to have a conversation about the issues, showing the condition in a positive light.”

“Sorry you feel this way about the current vote,” the BBC said a day after the poll was published, writing on Facebook. “The polls tend to reflect the storylines that are most talked about in the programme, and this is Vicky and Mike’s dilemma. The result of the poll doesn’t affect the outcome of the storyline.”

In a story that ran yesterday, a BBC spokesman congratulated the program: “The Archers storyline on Mike and Vicky’s pregnancy has been well received by the audience and raises a number of important issues about Down’s Syndrome, informed by the advice and expertise of the Down’s Syndrome Association.”

Its lone concession was that, “However this issue is too complex and sensitive for an online poll and we regret any offences the poll may have caused.”

The online vote was featured last week on “The Archers” website, has since been replaced. However, as of this morning, the link remains on Facebook along with the question: “Mike and Vicky’s dilemma makes up this week’s vote: should they go through with the pregnancy? Vote on our homepage.”

[www.facebook.com/BBCTheArchers/posts/139518436192273]

Categories: Down Syndrome