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Article: Repeal + Down Syndrome

WHAT WILL REPEAL MEAN FOR DOWN SYNDROME IN IRELAND?

 

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REPEAL + DOWN SYNDROME

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Will more unborn children with Down Syndrome be aborted if the 8th Amendment is repealed?

Supporters of the repeal campaign deny that this will happen, but an anti-abortion group has still erected billboards featuring a child with Down Syndrome.

“In Britain, 90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted,” the caption states. “Don’t let that happen here.”

Clearly someone is not telling the full truth.


FACT CHECK

TheJournal.ie recently carried out one of its official Fact Checks on the aforementioned billboards. 

They looked at the health statistics in the UK and found that 90% of British pregnancies with prenatally diagnosed Down Syndrome are indeed aborted.

The UK is not exactly an outlier either. In the United States, the termination rate is estimated at around 85%, and similar figures exist in many European countries.  

New technology means that tests for Down Syndrome tests can be carried out as early as 10 weeks into pregnancy, with 99% accuracy, and this is leading to serious changes in many societies.


A WORLD WITHOUT DOWN SYNDROME

In 2016, a BBC documentary made by Sally Phillips (of Bridget Jones fame) focused on the real-world implications of such testing.

Phillips travelled to Iceland where 100% of diagnosed Down Syndrome cases have ended in abortion over the previous five years.

There, she found that a photographer had even done a series of portraits called ‘First & Foremost I Am’ documenting some of the last remaining Icelandic citizens with the condition.

‘A World Without Down’s Syndrome’ can be found on YouTube


HOW IRELAND STANDS OUT FROM THE REST

In February, The Irish Times published an article about Down Syndrome and abortion in Germany which noted that about 0.07% of the German population have Down Syndrome, in contrast with Ireland where the rate is 0.15%.

This is not an accident.

It’s because Ireland’s abortion laws prevent Down Syndrome children from being aborted, while Germany’s do not.

Figures like these are making it harder for Irish politicians to deny what is going to happen if the 8th Amendment is repealed.

In January, when asked about Irish people possibly opting for abortion after finding out that their unborn had Down Syndrome, the Minister for Health Simon Harris denied such cases existed saying:

“I do not believe women in this country adopt that approach when they have a diagnosis of a child with a disability,” he said.

Then when given the figures showing that 83 Irish women had travelled to Britain over the last two years for abortions following a Down Syndrome diagnosis, Harris said he was “not shocked by it at all” and insisted that those who travelled to the UK for that reason were “not doing it lightly.”

Harris’s tone suggests that he might one day re-consider his current opposition to allowing these parents to access abortion services in Ireland, just as he has already re-considered his views in many other areas regarding this issue.


THE FUTURE OF DOWN SYNDROME TESTING

Prenatal testing for Down Syndrome before 12 weeks is now offered by many Irish medical providers.

The Irish Maternal Fetal Foundation for example, offer an NIPT service for Down Syndrome as early as 9 weeks into pregnancy, well before the Government’s proposed cut-off time for abortions of 12 weeks.

Even more important is the fact that advancements in testing for Down Syndrome - and other disabilities - are getting better all the time.

Remember: we are not just voting for the abortion laws of 2018, but for the decades ahead of us also.

The reality of what abortion has meant for people with Down Syndrome elsewhere can be seen in the cold, hard statistics kept by various official health authorities, and in the ever dwindling numbers of such boys and girls who are afforded the chance of being born.

If we repeal the 8th Amendment, will Ireland be any different?


This article is part of Ireland Without the 8th.

 
 
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