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Down Syndrome main reason for Irish disability abortion in Britain, not ‘fatal’ conditions

The Life Institute has called for a review of how a diagnosis of a disability for an unborn child is shared with parents, after shocking new figures show that the number of abortions for babies with Down Syndrome has tripled for women travelling from Ireland since 2018. 

Spokeswoman Megan Ní Scealláin said that abortion campaigners, including the National Women’s Council, were misrepresenting the figures to claim that most of the babies aborted had what they called a “fatal anomaly,” when that was not the case. 

“The British abortion statistics show that the number of abortions carried out on women travelling from Ireland to England and Wales because the baby has Down Syndrome have, in fact, tripled since 2018,” she said. 

“The number has increased year on year but 2021 showed a sharp rise, driving to a shocking 3.7 fold jump between 2018 and 2021.” 

“In 2018, there were 16 babies aborted because the child had Down Syndrome. That jumped to 27 babies in 2019, and 35 in 2020,” she said. “In 2021, a heart-breaking total of 59 abortions were carried out in Britain on Irish babies who had Down Syndrome.” 

The shocking rise comes at at time when the number of British abortions continue to soar, with 2021 reporting the highest number of terminations on record as some 214,256 babies were aborted. 

Ms Ní Scealláín said that evidence from parents of children with Down Syndrome, and the recent baby Christopher case in the National Maternity hospital hospital where a baby boy was aborted after a misdiagnosis, showed that parents felt pushed towards abortion after a diagnosis of a disability. 

“These numbers suggested that parents are increasingly pushed towards abortion and this has enormous implications for people with Down Syndrome,” she said. “When are we going to wake up and take this form of deadly discrimination seriously, when we reach a situation such as they have in Denmark where 98% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted.” 

And she was sharply critical of abortion campaigners for what she described as a “deliberate attempt to mislead people and to muddy the waters.” 

“Today we saw the National Women’s Council claim that there was an increase in ground E or disability abortions carried out carried out on Irish residents in England and Wales – and claim that this suggests “that there are significant problems with access to abortion care in Ireland post-12 weeks on the grounds of fatal foetal anomaly.”

“This is both dishonest and disingenuous,” Ms Ní Scealláín said. “As NWCI will be well aware, the largest number of ground E abortions are now because of a diagnosis of Down Syndrome – and the number of abortions in Britain for Irish women on the ground of conditions which are actually life-limiting such as anencephaly or Patau Syndrome have fallen dramatically, precisely because those abortions are now happening in Ireland.” 

“Abortion campaigners should also be asked why they seem to think that abortion is the only solution to where a baby has been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition, which is the more correct term by the way, not the offensive phrase ‘fatal abnormality’,” she said. “Again, we should look to the baby Christopher case as evidence that parents are being pushed towards abortion after a diagnosis, when research and the lived experience of families show that these babies’ lives have value and meaning and can bring great joy. Why the rush always to abort?”

“But the NWCI needs to be honest and say that it wants Down Syndrome and other conditions included in disability abortions here, rather than pretending that most of those traveling for abortions are for what they describe as  ‘fatal’ conditions,” the pro-life spokeswoman added.  

“But far more importantly,   we as a society need to ask ourselves if we are happy to let this appalling trend develop where increasing numbers of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted to the point where there are none being born, as has happened in other countries,” she added. 

Ms Ní Scealáin also called for better supports for people with disabilities and said families of people living with disabilities were being persistently failed by the state. “Its not good enough,” she said. “The state’s failure to help families is a factor in pushing parents towards abortion.”

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