Ireland’s abortion law allows for abortion up to viability and even up to birth for vague and undefined “health” grounds. This has the potential to discriminate against the lives of babies who have genetic or life limiting conditions diagnosed in the womb. Today, we are hearing more and more of the pressure parents are put under to abort their baby who has been diagnosed with these condition.
A truly life-affirming society should work towards giving all necessary supports to children with special needs and life-limiting conditions and their families.
Protecting and valuing the rights of people with disabilities begins with protecting their rights while still in the womb. However, we know that abortions take place in certain countries when a baby is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in the womb.
2019 figures for England and Wales show that 90% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome prenatally are aborted.
In Denmark and Iceland the figure is closer to 100%.
We do not have a breakdown of abortion figures for specific conditions for Ireland but we do know that pre-natal testing is available here.
There are a number of organisations which support parents who have received a diagnosis that their child has a life-limiting condition in utero.
The Perfect Gift is a collection of mothers who aim to challenge perceptions in Ireland around Down Syndrome by creating ‘baskets of love’ which are distributed to parents who have received a diagnosis that their child has Down Syndrome. Parents are then invited to join an online private community.
- The Perfect Gift – https://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectGiftT21/
Finding out that your baby will not live long past birth is a heartbreaking experience for parents. Baby’s who are diagnosed with a life limiting condition like this are often described as having a “fatal foetal abnormality” or as a baby’ who is “incompatible with life”. These terms are very misleading as the reality is that doctors have no way of knowing how long the baby will live for. Some babies diagnosed prenatally with a life limiting condition will live months and even years after birth.
Studies have reported over 70% live births for babies conceived with anencephaly. There has been cases of misdiagnosis and babies thought to have a life limiting condition were born perfectly healthy.
We must really ask ourselves what is the truly compassionate response in this situation. More and more there is added pressure on parents to end their unborn baby’s life because they have a terminal illness. There has been stories of parents who after the abortion learned for the the first time about the existence of perinatal hospice care as an alternative to abortion.