Dr. Trevor Hayes, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
I have been an Obstetrician for over 20 years. I have delivered over 2000 babies. Over the years I have delivered children with Down syndrome. The arrival of a baby with Down syndrome can come as a surprise to some parents and a shock to others, but every family that I have kept in touch with over the years has always been delighted to have a child that is a powerful source of happiness. One little girl with Down syndrome sends me a card every year on her birthday, she and people like her are a wonderful part of our community.
Over the last 20 years we have become a much more inclusive country, in particular since the Special Olympics in 2004 we celebrate people with Down syndrome and welcome the diversity they bring to our country.
Sadly much of the recent progress is under threat by the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
With modern testing technology, Down syndrome can be detected at 10 weeks of pregnancy with 99% accuracy. Now, if you look at the legislation that the Minister for Health has published and promised to pass if the government win the referendum, you can see that there is abortion on demand, without any medical reason up to 12 weeks (in part 7). It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you can detect Down syndrome at 10 weeks and you can abort without reason up to 12 weeks, then we are going to see an increase in the number of babies with Down syndrome being aborted.
Simon Harris has previously described references to the rate of abortion of unborn children with Down Syndrome as “offensive”. However, what is truly offensive is the fact that he is ignoring the rate of abortion of children when Down Syndrome is detected in the womb.
The rate of abortion in many European countries that do not restrict abortion for disability are horrific. In England and Wales, 90% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted after detection.
Will we see a similar rate of abortions for Down Syndrome here if the Eighth Amendment is repealed? It would be foolish to believe that we are so very different from our European neighbours, it is an enormous risk to take with the lives of children with Down Syndrome to repeal their main legal protection.
Our society should use its considerable resources to support every mother and her unborn child. We have made so much progress in recent years supporting children with disabilities in schools and in the community. I don’t want to live in a country where eventually we end up like England, the legacy of progress we have made in recent years should not be ended by stripping away the main legal protection that disabled have in the Constitution by removing the Eighth Amendment.
I, and many other doctors, will be voting ‘no’ to this abortion referendum on the 25th of May, as this will be the only way to stop a deeply troubling law being passed that will make it legal for the first time ever in this country to attack the life of a disabled person before they are born. I hope that the Irish people will agree that Ireland does not need to repeat the mistakes of England.