Order of the Douche Savant: MJA forced-birther Edward D Watt

In other news from the latest Medical Journal of Australia, the Journal published forced-birther pontifications[1] from Claremont-based retired UWA Politics academic Edward D. Watt (Ted Watt). You know the drill:

The article is entirely adult-centred: its authors never hint that a doctor who is treating a pregnant woman has not one but two patients. There is never the faintest suggestion that the fetus is a separate human being with his or her own medical interests.


The authors of the paper to which he is responding“Pregnant women with fetal abnormalities: the forgotten people in the abortion debate”, were offered a right of reply, as is the Journal’s usual practice. They rebut some of the lies in his letter, and make their stance quite clear:

Watt seems to wish to return to the days of no prenatal testing; we believe today’s women reject this paternalistic view. However, Watt is correct in saying our article is “adult-centred” — it is not self-evident that the fetus is a patient, nor is this view consistent with those of most liberal legal jurisdictions.

It is clear that Watt has toned down his usual rhetoric for the MJA, and somehow conveniently neglects to mention that he is associated with the Western Australia branch of “Right to Life Australia” and is a former Treasurer of “Coalition for the Defence of Human Life”.

Watt has previously compared abortion to terrorism and to the Indigenous longevity gap, stem cell research to Nazi medical experimentation, and surrogacy to chattel slavery. He campaigns against contraception, IVF, gamete donation, and conception assistance for lesbians as well as against abortion. Here is an example of some of Watt’s other work.

Wxtra special examples of just how much regard Watt holds women can be found in his evidence submitted to the Select Committee on the Human Reproductive Technology Act, 11 May 1998:

Mrs HODSON-THOMAS [Senate Committee member]: However, in view of the new technology that exists in pre- implantation diagnosis which has actually been conducted in South Australia for example, what would your view be?

Dr WATT: That to do that would be to pick and choose among members of the human family; and that once we start picking and choosing we are, indeed, on a slippery slope. It seems to me that having a child is a bit like getting married. We take one another when we get married for better, for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. By God, unless we take our children that way, it is a poor lookout for them. My youngest daughter, who was adopted, married recently. In speaking at her wedding, I recalled bringing her home and her elder brother-to-be saying, “Send her back, her nostrils are too small.”

We looked at her and her nostrils were, indeed, rather small. However, we thought if we fed her they might grow a bit. Whether they grew or not, if this was to be our daughter we could not afford to pick and choose on the ground of the size of nostrils; or, indeed, more serious handicaps.

Another highlight from the submission, showing his regard for people with disabilities:

Mr BAKER [Senate Committee member]: One of the major features of the legislation is to determine which particular persons, or human beings, can avail themselves of an in vitro fertilisation procedure. However, the Act also makes it clear that is just one test. The other test is where, for example, a couple whose child would otherwise be affected by a genetic abnormality or disease, they also can avail themselves of such a procedure; do you have any comments on the latter? The Act says infertility is just one. Section 23(a) of the Act states – it would be likely to benefit –
. . .
(ii) a couple whose will otherwise be likely to be affected by a genetic abnormality or disease
Do you believe in that?

Dr WATT: If any children I may conceive through natural procedures are likely to be seriously disabled then I need to do some hard thinking about whether I am entitled to conceive any children given the risk and nature of the condition that I am exposing them to.

I hereby award Edward D Watt with the newly-minted award Member of the Order of the Douche Savant[2] :


[1] Letter to the editor RE: Pregnant women with fetal abnormalities: the forgotten people in the abortion debate
Edward D Watt
MJA 2008; 189 (1): 53-55

[2] h/t

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, health, medicine, Politics, religion


1 reply

  1. I’m copying a comment here that I wrote on Audrey’s carnival post, because somehow this post got interpreted as me being anti-choice. I’m not, no way, nohow, not ever.
    I should have elaborated more on Watt and his attitude to disability, perhaps – at the time I thought that his words spoke for themselves.
    You’re not necessarily ableist for thinking that you might personally not choose to continue to carry a fetus with a severe disability of particular types. That’s part of what reproductive choice is all about.
    Given your inclinations in this regard, I’m extrapolating and guessing that if you had a known genetic issue and wanted a bio-child, and if reproductive tech (like IVF and embryo selection) could reduce that risk dramatically, you’d like to have access to that.
    Watt doesn’t want you to be allowed to access that reproductive technology. He wants there to be laws against it.
    Watt talks about whether women who are “likely” to carry a fetus with a disability are entitled (his word) to conceive any pregnancy in the first place. He wants to be judge and jury over which women are allowed to have children and which aren’t. He wants women without known genetic issues to be allowed conceive “naturally” (and only naturally), and believes that women with known genetic issues are not entitled to conceive at all, and should therefore be denied access to reproductive technology that might reduce their risk of having a fetus with a disability.
    That’s totalitarian, patriarchal bullshit of the highest order.
    Shorter me: women with disabilities, women with non-typical genes, and women carrying fetuses with disabilities get a choice too. Choice isn’t a one-way street, and it’s not just for some women.