85 people with disabilities and parents of people with disabilities have signed an open letter warning that legalised abortion will devastate their communities. They have also strongly defended their right to be heard and to include their children in the discussion around abortion, saying they would not be silenced.
Our voices will be heard
We write as parents of children with disabilities or as people living with a disability in response to recent coverage of the relevance of our voices and of the experience of our children’s communities to the abortion debate. We feel that there has been a concerted effort to silence our voices and to make our families invisible in this discussion.
It has felt as if our existence is inconvenient for some supporters of the abortion referendum, and that they would rather we went away and were quiet. We will not. It is a cold, hard, undeniable fact that when abortion is introduced, a disproportionate impact is suffered by those children diagnosed with some form of disability.
Already, the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin offers first trimester screening, which can test for Down syndrome as early as 9 or 10 weeks of gestation. As medicine advances, these tests will become more widely available and will likely be accurate earlier in pregnancy.
It should be noted that while the Oireachtas committee did not recommend disability as a ground for abortion, neither did it explicitly propose that it be banned. In fact, “risk to mental health of the mother” is recommended as a reason for abortion with no proposed gestational limit – right up to birth. In the UK, the vast majority of abortions are carried out for this reason. In other countries, such as Germany, babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted at a rate in excess 90% on grounds of mental health risk to the mother. It is our opinion that abortion campaigners are well aware of this reality.
We will include our children in our efforts on this debate because we want people to see our children for what they are – wonderful people whose right to life is protected here in Ireland because of the 8th amendment. In other countries legalising abortion has led to a very different story.
90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally are now aborted before birth in Britain. 98% of preborn children diagnosed with the same condition are aborted in Denmark. It seems that the media and abortion campaigners want the public to be upset about any pro-life initiatives which highlight these facts, but they never express any upset at all that most children identified with Down syndrome in the womb simply never get to be born at all.
The inescapable truth is that we are facing the eradication of people with Down syndrome and other conditions. Research shows that 64% of babies diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted in other jurisdictions, while abortion rates for babies prenatally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis can also reach 90% according to some studies.
Ireland has an opportunity now to reject this culture. Instead, we want our children to grow up in a culture where people with disabilities are loved and valued and cherished. How can that happen when most babies with disabilities are being aborted – when they are no longer being born?
The referendum we are being asked to vote on strips away the rights of all children, but it will have a particular impact on our communities. We respect the voices of all of those involved in this debate, but we will not be silent about our concerns simply because they appear to be politically inconvenient for some.
We ask any journalist to meet with us to understand our concerns and to see why we, and our children, refuse to be invisible in this debate concerning the most basic right of all for people with disabilities, the right to life.
Siobhan and Shirley Scannell, Co.Cork
Yvonne Donohoe, Co. Leitrim
Caitríona Kirby, Co. Limerick
Paul and Patricia Casserly, Co. Galway
Catherine Sims, Co. Galway
Nick and Mary Lowry, Co. Dublin
Una Finn, Co. Meath
Bernadette Belton, Co. Longford
Liz Hourican, Co. Longford
Olive Duffy, Co. Longford
Bernie Browne, Co. Longford
Eilish Mc Givney, Co. Longford
Moire Mahon Walsh, Co. Longford
Mary Mc Cormack, Co. Longford
Josephine Gallagher, Co, Longford
Mary Grey, Co. Longford
Vicky Wall, Co. Waterford
Michael Curran, Co. Waterford
Sineád Fitzpatrick Co. Waterford
Lorraine and Thomas Kirby, Co. Waterford
Eric English, Co. Waterford
Sadie Meehan, Co. Waterford
Tracy and Tom Harkin, Co. Armagh
Carmel Ludden, Co. Mayo
Colette and Martin Moran, Co. Mayo
Monica O’Connor, Co. Wexford
David and Margaret Mullins, Co. Wicklow
Siobhan Livingstone, Co. Cork
Rick Livingstone, Co. Cork
Kathy Sinnott, Co. Cork
Denis and Joan Twomey, Co. Cork
Fidelma and Willie McCarthy, Co. Cork
Susan Murray, Co. Cork
Linda and Dary Farrelly, Co. Cavan
Sinead and Martin McBreen, Co. Cavan
Anna Cullen, Co. Cavan
Gerry and Bernadette Mockler, Co. Tipperary
Tanya Coonan, Co. Tipperary
Caitríona and Mark Cronin, Co. Donegal
Robert and Judith Tait, Co. Donegal
Patricia Moore, Co. Kildare
Marion and Peter Murphy, Co. Kildare
Amanda Reeves, Co. Kildare
Keith Reeves, Co. Kildare
Jennifer and John Keogh, Co. Kildare
Áine and Joe Healy, Co. Dublin
Emma Quinn, Co. Dublin
Tara Seagrave Daly, Co. Dublin
Mary Bridget Kelly, Co. Dublin
Clare and Mark Kelly, Co. Dublin
Attracta Dowling, Co. Dublin
Daniel Dowling, Co. Dublin
Carol Halligan, Co. Dublin
Mary McDonald, Co. Dublin
Kathryn Coakley, Co. Dublin
Siobhán and Teddy Delaney, Co. Dublin
Gillian Sherratt, Co. Dublin
Stephen Morrison, Co. Dublin
Liam and Kate Kearney, Co. Dublin
Missy Fallon, Co. Dublin
Anne and Joe Trainer, Co. Louth
Michael O’Dowd, Co. Louth
Conor O’Dowd, Co. Louth
Mary Lynch, Co. Clare