Abortion and Disability

"We will not be silenced"- Save the 8th launches national billboard message as campaign to defeat referendum begins

 

Statement from Press Conference

My name is Niamh Uí Bhriain, and I’m representing the Save the 8th campaign here today. Thank you for coming. Save the 8th has commenced its efforts to defeat the referendum to legalise abortion with a major billboard campaign which is being erected nationwide. These ‘Reality of Repeal’ billboards are being launched here this morning, Tuesday, at 11am, at Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2.

 

 

The billboards, launched after consultation with members of Disability Voices for Life, a group representing families that include somebody with a disability, reveal the shocking reality of what will happen if Mr Varadkar’s abortion proposal were to succeed. They highlight the enormous increase in the numbers of abortions carried out, and the heart-breaking rate of babies with Down syndrome being killed before birth, as a result of legalising abortion in Britain.

The billboards capture some stark facts that are being hidden from the debate. One quotes the shocking statistic that 1 in every 5 babies is aborted in Britain, while the other features Joseph Cronin, a Donegal boy with Down syndrome, and gives a human face to the shocking fact that 90% of babies with the condition have their lives ended before birth in other jurisdictions.

Joseph’s mother, Caitriona, has asked us to tell you that her family fully supports the campaign, and she added that families and people with disabilities would not be silenced in the debate.

“In recent days, it has felt like there has been a campaign to silence families like my own. We have heard misleading claims cloaked in alleged concern for people like Joseph, when the cold, hard, facts speak for themselves. In countries with legal abortion along the lines the government wishes to introduce, people like Joseph disappear at astonishing and cruel rates,” she said. “We want people to see Joseph for what he is - a smart adorable funny little boy who has a right to life here in Ireland when in so many other countries that right to life has been taken away. 90% of people like Joseph are now aborted before birth in Britain, and that means something, it’s not just a number. We want Joseph 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?” said Ms Cronin.

Much of the media coverage around this issue has sought to deflect from the shocking reality of what legalised abortion means. Dr Peter Boylan, who is campaigning for repeal of the 8th, has been particularly misleading in this regard. Yesterday he told Newstalk, and I quote, “It is not correct to say that the rate of terminations for Down Syndrome will increase in Ireland if the proposals of the Oireachtas Committee are passed.”

Dr Boylan appears to have a crystal ball which allows him to make these assertions which are, of course, his personal, campaigning opinions - because these are not medical opinions. He must be the only doctor in Ireland who doesn't seem to know that medicine advances, and that diagnoses will be made faster and faster. 10 years ago the HARMONY test was unthinkable. In ten years time it will probably be obsolete

He must be aware that prenatal diagnostics are becoming ever more sophisticated, and that tests indicating conditions such as Down syndrome are becoming more accurate and more easily available internationally. He must also be aware of the near-elimination of children with Down syndrome in other jurisdictions, such as Britain and Denmark. In any case, as Dr Boylan no doubt understands, the issue of a 12 week cut off for killing preborn babies is really a red herring in regard to aborting babies with a disability.

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 should be banned. The proposals under consideration seek to make abortion available without term limits on grounds of risk to the physical and mental health of the mother. As in other jurisdictions, i Germany, for example, where law does not specifically permit abortion on disability grounds, more than 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted.

There has been much lip service given to calls for the forthcoming debate to be calm and respectful. We agree, but we would also ask that it be an honest debate, where the reality of abortion is understood and acknowledged.

Last night, Leo Varadkar committed his government to legalising abortion for any reason for 12 weeks, and to further legalise abortion until birth on vague health grounds.

Dressing cruelty up as compassion, he ignored completely, as did Simon Harris in the Dáil before him, the humanity and the rights of the preborn child. Four years ago, Leo Varadkar said that he was “pro-life in that I accept that the unborn child is a human life with rights”. Now he is campaigning to remove those rights from the constitution. In 2011, Simon Harris begged pro-life voters to help him get elected. Today, he is the cheerleader-in-chief for abortion. When they has come this far, so quickly, how can voters trust that they will not move again?

This is an extreme proposal that places the rights of the unborn in the hands of fickle and poll-driven politicians. The public are not voting for an abortion law just for 2018, but for 2028, 2038, and beyond. If this proposal is passed, we will never be given a say over the rights of the unborn again, because politicians will have nobody to answer to except an avowedly pro-abortion media.

When the public come to see this proposal for what it is, it will be rejected. But that it is even being proposed is a dark day for our republic.

The ‘Reality of Repeal’ nationwide billboard campaign will be reinforced by mobile billboards and a major social media campaign in the coming weeks. We look forward to engaging with the Irish people and have the abortion proposal rejected in the referendum in May.


End


      

Conor O'Dowd from Co. Louth, who has Down Syndrome

Hello, my name is Conor O'Dowd. I am 23. I love my life. I took today off college to be here. This is a very important day. I am against abortion.

    

     

   

Michael O’Dowd from Disability Voices for Life

My name is Michael O’Dowd and I am the father of Conor. I am a member of Down Syndrome Ireland and a disability activist having recently helped set up a Disability Action group for Drogheda and its Environs.

I'm a member of Down Syndrome Ireland. I've sat on the board in the past. There are very different views in Down Syndrome Ireland on this issue, but I won't be silenced.

There is a phrase in disability activism ‘ nothing about us without us’ However, once we raised our voices it appears that we cannot speak about abortion.

The days of putting people with Special needs in the back room, out of sight, out of mind are over.

This campaign is about celebrating diversity , its about celebrating life.

We would not have felt obliged to speak out were it not for the relentless campaign from some quarters telling us to stay silent. This past week, it has felt like 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, those children diagnosed with some form of disability suffer a disproportionate impact. If people think that will not happen here, they are willfully kidding themselves. It has happened everywhere else

The campaign against us has been quite disturbing. During the debate on the Citizens assembly when they recommended abortion on grounds of non fatal foetal anomalies i.e. disability , I heard no voices challenging that recommendation or talking about how upset they were then.

The Oireachteas Committee happily spoke about disability without inviting any representative organization in to counter the negative stereotypes that were being portrayed.

Yet now when we as parents dare to challenge the real probability regarding termination of lives of people with disabilities we hear objections. Incredibly those objections are to our right to put forward our views. We are upsetting people , and my god ‘ They might hear what we have to say’ It’s a real throwback to the bad old days of ‘ O God love them , sure aren’t they great’

I wish I didn’t have to stand here but frankly as I look across Europe I have no choice. In every single country where abortion has been introduced the rate of terminations of people with Down syndrome has increased. The continent is sleepwalking into a situation where people with Down syndrome will scarcely exist. The battle line needs to be drawn. Today we are drawing that line here and now in Ireland. Ireland can do better.

 

    

Anne Trainer of DVFL

My name is Anne Trainer and I am mother to an amazing little boy called Kevin who has Down Syndrome. I came here today because I wanted to say I have been appalled that media commentators and abortion campaigners sought to dictate terms to families of children with disabilities in regard to what we could and could not say, and whether photographs of our children should be seen. I have found this upsetting, judgemental and intimidating.

I love my son more than life itself and it breaks my heart to see that abortion is eliminating his community. Parents like me have an absolute right to include our children and our families in this debate, since they are central to the discussion and often wish to make their own voices heard. We refuse to hide them away. We want to remind the Irish people that people with disabilities have a right to life, and we will not go back to the time when people with disabilities were put out of sight and ignored.

We have every right to express our deep concern at the proposal to introduce abortion into the country. In reality, babies with a disability are aborted in disproportionate numbers, with 90% being aborted in Britain. This reality is absolutely heart-breaking and the reality is that abortion discriminates against babies diagnosed with a disability. This is the real disrespect to both children and adults with Down syndrome and their families. This is what has caused real sorrow and stress to parents.

I want Ireland to keep a culture of loving and protecting children like my son. I won’t be silenced in this debate.

 


 

REFERENCES

 

  • British Department of Health: Report on abortion statistics in England and Wales for 2016
  • National Down Syndrome Cytogenic Register (NDSCR) for England and Wales, Annual Report 2013
  • Danish Cytogenetic Central Register 2010-2016  - http://www.auh.dk/siteassets/afdelinger/klinisk-genetisk-afdeling/dccr/pdf/downs-syndrom-1970-2016.pdf
  • German rates: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2008.01700.x/full



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