“My son is called Sé. He is five years old. He has Down Syndrome. Sé is loved and cherished by everyone around him. I find the use of pictures of children with Down Syndrome in the Pro-Life campaign to be deeply upsetting. It implies that, given the choice, I would have aborted him. That because of Sé’s Down Syndrome, I should love him a little less. That he is not worthy of the love we have for him because he is not deemed to be “perfect”.
In this country that “cherishes the children” Sé is treated like a second class citizen. We fight for access to adequate health care. We battle everyday to receive appropriate support from services. He has just completed his psychological assessment to see if he is “Down Syndrome” enough to warrant full support in the school system. No parent should have to go through this. No child should have to go through this. In Ireland, this is what we do to the families that choose to keep their “imperfect” child.
It is an insult to Sé and his tribe, and to their families and friends, to use Down Syndrome in a pro life campaign. Sé is perfect. Sé is our choice.”
– Lynda Delmar, Dublin
“My daughter is called Réiltín. She is 16 months old. She has Down Syndrome.
We found out very early on in my pregnancy that our baby most likely had an extra chromosome. For a whole week while awaiting tests we hoped and prayed our baby would have Down Syndrome and she does. We were delighted. We loved her and we wanted her regardless of having Down Syndrome.
The use of children with Down Syndrome in the Prolife campaign is offensive. We knew and we still wanted her. To imply that every parent would choose to abort their child with Down Syndrome is not true. On our journey we have met so many parents who had an antenatal diagnosis and enjoy and love their children every day.
Children and people with Down Syndrome have so much to offer and I trust the people of Ireland to see their contribution to society. In her short life she has been through a huge amount due to health issues but she has also contributed a huge amount. We donated over 30 litres of milk which means that she helped 16 premature babies. How many children can say that?
Stop using my child and her friends to perpetuate fear.”
– Ciara Reid, Glasnevin, Dublin
“Our son Peadar-Jim is 3 years old. He is fascinated by all in his life. He loves to watch the birds around him, running and splashing in puddles, picking up and throwing pebbles and shells on the beach, giggling with his older brother, playing with our dog. His day is filled with toddler adventure.
Despite many scans we did not know prior to his birth that he had Down Syndrome and heart defects. He needed open heart surgery as an infant to save his life, and needs greater physical and developmental help than his older brother. Peadar-Jim has overcome all obstacles to date and continues to amaze.
In the media used by pro-life groups, images of children with Down Syndrome are published in conjunction with words like “murder”. Will our sons see these images and words?
Will we then have to explain to our sons before they can understand that adults decide terminate pregnancies? Will we have to refute the direct and indirect assertions by pro life groups that not all parents, if given a choice, would choose not to have a baby like Peadar-Jim? Will we have to explain to our sons before they can understand that adults use images of children with an extra chromosome to further their own agenda without compassion? An agenda and position which we strongly oppose.
Mothers need healthcare. Healthcare includes abortion. Women with Down Syndrome also need choice. Nobody likes abortion. Nobody wants to undergo an abortion.
Women need full access to healthcare and the simple and complete right to bodily autonomy.”
– Bridín Ní Dhonncha and Goorik Dehaene, An Cheathrú Rua, Galway
Some facts and figures on the realities of Down Syndrome rates:
On Iceland and Down Syndrome:
Firstly, there are hardly any babies (by Irish standards) born in Iceland per year. 4,533 were born in 2012. Ireland has a birth rate of about 70,000 per year. The rate of babies born with Down Syndrome is measured in numbers per 100,000 births. For context, Iceland only has a population of 330,000 in total. In 2012, the reported rate of babies with Down Syndrome born in Iceland was 22 per 100,000. What this actually means is that 1 baby was born with Down Syndrome. Because the number of births is so low, only the tiniest of variations looks like a huge change when in fact it’s a difference of one birth. This could reasonably range between 0 and 8 babies born each year and would mean that their reported rate looks hugely variable – anywhere from 0 per 100,000 births to around 176 per 100,000 births.
On Ireland and Down Syndrome:
Ireland does not actually record the number of babies born with Down Syndrome per annum which fits perfectly with our tradition of only caring for and protecting babies up until they are born. The reported rate is generally 1 in 600 births (equating to 166 per 100,000 births) which comes out of one research paper from 1996. So we have no verifiable idea what we do at the moment and thus no idea what would be likely to change, if anything, post repeal. Ciara, quoted above, mammy to Réiltín (who has Down Syndrome) tells us that it is informally estimated among the Down Syndrome community that around 150 babies are born in Ireland each year with Down Syndrome.The Irish population in general has a high proportion of people carrying the silent genetic anomaly which can result in Down Syndrome, known as the translocation of chromosome 21, so we would expect to see a higher rate of babies born with Down Syndrome than places that don’t have this genetic patterning.
On the UK and Down Syndrome:
The number and prevalence of babies born with Down Syndrome in the UK has remained consistent from 1989, when they began accurately recording data on it, to today. While many families who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome do choose abortion, many do not. Also, because of how statistics are recorded, for those families who do choose abortion after a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, we don’t know what other factors were involved. It’s not clear that all of those pregnancies could have survived to term; Down Syndrome is not always a benign diagnosis (those babies and people we see with Down Syndrome in society are those with a relatively benign version) and frequently exists with serious comorbidities like heart conditions which can be unsurvivable.