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Backlash over Laws 'retard' remark

By zac.yates@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

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Michael Laws' Facebook page received dozens of angry messages. Photo/File
Michael Laws' Facebook page received dozens of angry messages. Photo/File

There has been a public backlash over Michael Laws' comments that he would "automatically" abort a foetus with Down syndrome and calling the parent of a disabled child a "retard".

Mr Laws, a Whanganui District Health Board member and district councillor, appeared on the Breakfast TV show yesterday to discuss the message exchange between him and the parent of a child with Down syndrome.

The parent, Keith Maynard, had compared Mr Laws' view of "eradicating" Down syndrome to eugenics in 1930s Germany. Mr Laws had then called him a retard, and Mr Maynard later made the conversation public on his Facebook page.

The television appearance has resulted in dozens of messages being left on the Facebook pages of both Mr Laws and the Breakfast programme. Several of the negative comments left on Mr Laws' electoral campaign page had been removed by 11am yesterday.

Zandra Vaccarino, national coordinator of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association, said his comments were concerning and inappropriate.

"The NZDSA is concerned by Michael Laws' ongoing discriminating comments about people with Down syndrome.

"New Zealand is guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Mr Laws should be endeavouring to uphold these principles," she said.

A representative of the NZDSA also appeared on Breakfast and said a complaint had been laid with the Disability Commissioner.

Some of those commenting online said they had emailed the Whanganui District Health Board regarding Mr Laws' comments and another, Wanganui man Brad Hutchinson, was so outraged he wrote to Minister of Health Tony Ryall.

"I wrote to the minister asking if he thought it was suitable to have someone in a position that represents our community hospital, and also the health ministry, with such horrendous views on disability.

"I would like to know if the minister has the power to remove such noxious people from positions of power," Mr Hutchinson said.

New health board chairwoman Dot McKinnon said it was inappropriate to comment on "what is, in essence, a private conversation between two people". She said Mr Laws' comments "in no way reflect the views of the board".

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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