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83 Irish women aborted babies with Down's syndrome in two years

5 February 2018


This billboard campaign is also causing controversy - but there's no disputing the facts.

But it's offensive to point it out. 

Over 80 women travelled to the UK to abort babies with Down's syndrome in the last two years, the Irish Independent reports

Department of Health Abortion statistics specifically list abortions carried out under Ground E (there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would be "seriously handicapped") on residents of the Irish Republic (table 12f). In the last two years for which statistics are available, 2015 and 2016, the number of terminations for Down's syndrome was 40 and 43 respectively.

Hypocrisy

The figures have been highlighted in the wake of comments by Health Minister Simon Harris that it was "offensive to suggest women in Ireland are seeking abortions" on the grounds their babies will be born with disabilities like Down syndrome. He also warned campaigners not to make disability an issue in the debate on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment. 

Despite denying that abortion for disability is an issue in Ireland, Mr Harris responded that he was "not shocked at all" by the figures. 

Not an issue?

Although a Ground E style clause has not been included in the proposed Irish legislation, the committee considering the issue recommended abortion up until birth for "fatal foetal abnormalities" (better known as life-limiting conditions). Pro-life campaigners have also pointed out that the proposal to allow unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks could lead to terminations in the cases of Down's syndrome and other disabilities (for which some tests are available in the first trimester). 

Not just Down's

The abortion statistics show that a total of 153 Irish women had abortions under Ground E in 2015, and 141 in 2016. These included 9 and 6 babies with spina bifida, and 13 and 20 with Edward's syndrome. Both years had two instances of abortion for "multiple gestation" - ie the mother was carrying more than one baby. 

We must speak out

Abortion on the grounds of Down's syndrome in particular has been causing debate in Ireland. Down's syndrome Ireland released a statement saying that use of the image of a girl with the condition on pro-life campaign pamphlets was "disrespectful to both children and adults with Down syndrome." However, Conor O'Dowd, a student with Down's syndrome, and his father Michael insisted last week that they will not be silenced in the debate over the Eighth Amendment.

"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 ... but I won't be silenced," said Michael. 

"We would not have felt obliged to speak out were it not for the relentless campaign from some quarters telling us to remain 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, a disproportionate impact is suffered by those children diagnosed with some form of disability."

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