Article: Not Equal Until Birth





Reading time: 4 mins


Politicians calling for the repeal of the 8th Amendment are insisting that the introduction of abortion will not lead to people being aborted for having disabilities.

But are they telling the truth?

Throughout Europe and further afield, countries with liberal abortion laws commonly allow abortion where an unborn child is found to have some disability.

3,422 abortions

In the UK, abortion is legal on disability grounds right up until birth. Also, as ultrasound scan technology improves more and more babies are being identified as having a disability.

These two facts are leading to consequences which are plain to see. In 2016, there were 3,422 abortions on disability grounds in the UK.  

Hundreds those who were aborted had Down Syndrome, with 90% of those diagnosed with the condition being aborted.

People with plenty of other conditions are also being targeted. Heart problems are leading to many abortions, as is spina bifida, and cystic fibrosis too.  

Many of these conditions are not life-threatening at all, and the names are commonly known due to high-profile people who live with them, not to mention the various charities which exist to help people to live better and more fulfilling lives.

People with Down Syndrome, spina bifida or cystic fibrosis are now being told that their lives matter equally, but only after they are born. Why?


Not only is abortion not being limited to fatal conditions, it is not even being limited to serious conditions.

A growing number of cosmetic abortions are taking place as a result of unborn children being diagnosed with a cleft lip or palate – a condition which alters facial appearance slightly but which is easily fixed through surgery.

Statistics from the UK’s Department of Health showed that 30 babies were aborted between 2013-2015 for having this minor condition. By 2016, abortions due to cleft lip or palate had nearly tripled in just five years.

What will the numbers look like in another five years?


British legislators have not done so, even while the number of abortions for disabilities hits record highs.

Lord Shinkwin, a disabled member of the House of Lords, has described his country’s abortion laws as “a licence to kill for the crime of being disabled.”

Shinkwin has proposed an Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill to outlaw such blatant discrimination before birth.

As in America, though, well-funded abortion activists and the multi-million pound abortion industry are fighting hard to resist any moves to tighten the law so as to protect disabled people.

What does this mean in Ireland?

Already, growing numbers of Irish people are travelling to Britain to end pregnancies after finding out that their unborn children are disabled.

Official figures show that 83 Irish women travelled to Britain over two years to have late-term abortions following a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.  Many more are travelling after receiving other diagnoses.

Health Minister Simon Harris has defended those making this choice, arguing that they are “not doing it lightly.”

Significantly, five members of the Oireachtas Committee on abortion voted to legalise abortion for disability without gestational limit, including one from Fine Gael.  

While a majority of the Committee did not vote for this measure, ominously, the official report did note “the burden placed on the woman and the family in such situations.”

What is more, the Abortion Rights Campaign – a driving force within Together for Yes – supports abortion-on-request in cases of disability right up until birth.

They are not going to stop demanding abortion, and with the 8th Amendment gone, politicians will be able to give those trying to take away disabled people’s rights everything they want and more.


As technology continues to improve, it will likely soon be possible to diagnose even more disabilities in utero, and at earlier stages in pregnancy too.

Remember: we’re not just being asked to vote on the abortion law for 2018. We’re being asked to vote on the abortion law for the years and decades to come.

One thing is certain: if the 8th Amendment is repealed, we will never be asked to vote on this again.

To protect disabled people and preserve equal rights for all, there is no other option but to vote no.

This article is part of Ireland Without the 8th.