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The Facts.

Do you know that the 2018 Abortion Act discriminates against all unborn children, and that includes children with recognised disabilities? Ireland’s Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, however well disguised, has the makings of comprehensive discrimination against disabled babies from conception until birth.

This 2018 abortion law is an actual programme of discrimination against disabled babies before birth, and its vague terms give it the potential to “cleanse” society of all disabled babies in the future. Its omission of an explicit prohibition of disability abortion feeds the belief that the lives of disabled people are less worthwhile than the lives of “normal” people, and dehumanises them before birth.

In the past century, medical science has achieved major advances in correcting many disabilities and enabling people with mental and/or physical disability to lead active and fulfilling lives. At the same time, prenatal screening and tests to identify the existence of genetic abnormalities that cause a disability have become more accurate and widely available for pregnant mothers.

Many obstetricians and gynaecologists believe that abortion is the “appropriate treatment”, should a test for disability prove positive, and try to steer the parents of a disabled child to accept this view. If aborting disabled babies becomes the norm, those who choose to keep the baby will be left in no doubt about the social disapproval they will face. More parents are choosing to abort “imperfect” children, even for minor defects like cleft lip or clubfoot which can be corrected by minor surgery after birth.

The consequences of this view, widespread among doctors, are most obvious in the disappearance of babies with Down Syndrome. In Iceland and Denmark the birth of a Downs baby has all but ceased under a clear policy of the public health service, however disguised as progressive healthcare. As one mother recalled:

This 2018 abortion law is an actual programme of discrimination against disabled babies before birth, and its vague terms give it the potential to “cleanse” society of all disabled babies in the future. Its omission of an explicit prohibition of disability abortion feeds the belief that the lives of disabled people are less worthwhile than the lives of “normal” people, and dehumanises them before birth.

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In the past century, medical science has achieved major advances in correcting many disabilities and enabling people with mental and/or physical disability to lead active and fulfilling lives. At the same time, prenatal screening and tests to identify the existence of genetic abnormalities that cause a disability have become more accurate and widely available for pregnant mothers.

Many obstetricians and gynaecologists believe that abortion is the “appropriate treatment”, should a test for disability prove positive, and try to steer the parents of a disabled child to accept this view. If aborting disabled babies becomes the norm, those who choose to keep the baby will be left in no doubt about the social disapproval they will face. More parents are choosing to abort “imperfect” children, even for minor defects like cleft lip or clubfoot which can be corrected by minor surgery after birth.

The consequences of this view, widespread among doctors, are most obvious in the disappearance of babies with Down Syndrome. In Iceland and Denmark the birth of a Downs baby has all but ceased under a clear policy of the public health service, however disguised as progressive healthcare. As one mother recalled:


“The first thing that they wanted to talk about (in hospital) was whether we wanted to terminate the pregnancy, and I was 34 weeks pregnant at the time, so it was quite a difficult question to get asked.”

So much for the vaunted “choice”!

In Ireland, under Section 12 of the Act, during the first 12 weeks of an unborn baby’s life, the law gives no protection whatsoever. A mother does not need to give a reason for her request for an abortion. The only requirement is that her pregnancy is within the 12-week period, and, that being so, the doctor is obliged to accede to her request.

Under Section 9 of the Act, the law gives an unborn child some protection from being aborted after 12 weeks. But, if the child’s existence is “a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman”, up to 24 weeks of the pregnancy, then his life can be ended. The threat to the mother may be to her physical and/or mental health.

Under Section 11, an unborn child’s life-threatening disability (even a suspected disability) allows an abortion. Where there exists “a condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before, or within 28 days of, birth.” The wording of this section avoids the word “disability”, using instead “condition” but amounts to the same thing.

In conclusion, this 2018 abortion law is an actual programme of discrimination against disabled babies before birth, and its vague terms give it the potential to “cleanse” all disabled babies in the future. Its omission of an explicit prohibition of disability abortion feeds the belief that the lives of disabled people are less worthwhile than the lives of “normal” people, and dehumanises them before birth.

Why It's Wrong.

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Studies of the Fetus in the Womb, Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1511

For centuries a baby born with a disability was deemed “unworthy of life” and a source of shame for a family. In the ancient world of Greece and Rome, they were routinely abandoned or killed, a practice that continues today in certain cultures. Under the Judaeo-Christian ethic, the killing of disabled children, before or after birth, was treated as homicide. Tragically, in the post- Christian world of today, the quest for the perfect child is taking the lives of disabled babies before or even after birth.

In the quest for universal human rights, campaigners for the disabled have worked to end discrimination in a host of areas, and to change the often-negative perceptions of lives of disabled persons. Western culture has shifted towards a more respectful and supportive attitude for the disabled, and we can see this most evidently in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), adopted in 2007, and finally ratified by Ireland in 2018.

The purpose of the Convention is to ensure the “full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity” (§ 1). § 10 also affirms that “the inherent right to life” of every human applies to persons with disabilities as much as to anyone else. Nor should the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child be forgotten, when it states that a child “needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” (Preamble). The disabled want respect, not pity.

Studies of the Fetus in the Womb, Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1511

Why You Should Oppose

Three Reasons To Oppose Targeting the Disabled Before Birth


1

Irish law and culture support the equal rights of disabled persons, as listed in the UNCRPD and national laws. The idea that a baby’s disability makes her less worthy of life, before and after birth, should be repugnant to every person who believes in human dignity. The abortion law does not mention, still less define disability, and makes no effort to oppose discrimination against the disabled.

2

Ireland’s abortion law discriminates against the disabled, even if it is less visible and blatant than the UK Abortion Act. It reinforces the widely-held opinion that a child with a disability is “unworthy of life”, against which campaigners for the disabled have worked so hard to eradicate.

3

The discrimination against the disabled before birth is repeated by the advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide. They argue that persons with disabilities, either through illness or grave injury, are “unworthy of protection”, and should be allowed (or encouraged) to end their lives. Too easily disabled persons are thought of as a class of persons inferior to able-bodied people, and those who have somehow slipped through the net of prenatal tests.

What You Can Do.

How You Can Help to End This Discrimination


Join The Call

To amend Irish law so that it explicitly opposes abortion on grounds of disability.

Donate

So we can reach more people to show why abortion on grounds of disability is discriminatory.

Volunteer

In one of the many activities that promote a Culture of Life in Ireland.