An Irish man with Down’s syndrome has delivered a letter to the Master of Rotunda Hospital saying that abortion on the grounds of Down’s syndrome was “very wrong” and “unfair”.
The letter was delivered in the aftermath of an Irish Times interview with Professor Fergal Malone at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. During the interview, the Professor said that 95% of women who are thought to be pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome have an abortion.
“The reality is that the vast majority choose to terminate. I don’t have a view on whether that is the right thing. We don’t advocate for it, that is just the lived experience”, he said.
However, Conor O’Dowd from Drogheda in the east of Ireland delivered a letter with his father, Michael, in response to Professor Malone’s comments in which he made a plea to save babies with Down’s syndrome.
In his handwritten letter, he wrote “I love my life [and] I don’t understand why people take away babies with Down syndrome … it is very wrong … it is unfair. We love our parents, our brothers and sisters and our friends, and they love us so much”.
“… Tell the truth to our parents on Facebook, or you could go on RTÉ. Please save our babies with Down Syndrome”.
Conor is 28 and works as a chef in a hotel in Drogheda.
“There needs to be a change in attitude among medical professionals to the issue of disability”
Michael O’Dowd, Conor’s father, is a local spokesperson for the political party Aontú. He said that the 95% rate of abortions indicated that “information given to prospective parents is skewed towards highlighting potential medical problems, ignoring the positive aspects of having a child with Down syndrome”.
He told the Drogheda Independent that “there needs to be a change in attitude among medical professionals to the issue of disability and the contribution of people with disabilities to society”.
“The authors of one 2020 study said that: ‘more often, however, the mothers reported negative experiences with medical staff, including a lack of compassion, pressure to terminate their pregnancy, and pessimistic expectations about outcomes for their child and family. Many received limited or no additional resources or support systems’.”
“For those individuals, memories of the diagnosis continued to be associated with negative emotions, and the time that had elapsed had not helped lessen the impact. Mothers who had not received positive feedback could recall their diagnosis experience in specific, often haunting detail, even after 20 years”.
Down’s syndrome abortion
Currently in England, Wales and Scotland, abortion is available de facto on demand up to a 24-week time limit, but if the baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot, abortion is legal right up to birth.
There were 3,370 disability-selective abortions in 2021. The number of late-term abortions at 24 weeks gestation or over where the baby has a disability increased by 20% from 229 to 274.
The statistics showed there were 859 abortions where a baby had Down’s syndrome in 2021, an increase of 24% from 2020. The statistics also show a 71% increase in late-term abortions at 24 weeks gestation or over where the baby had Down’s syndrome, increasing from 14 in 2020 to 24 in 2021.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “Professor Malone’s comment that he ‘does not have a view on whether abortion of babies with Down’s syndrome is right’ is completely dishonest. Not taking a view, not speaking out against it, not doing anything, is no different to being content with the status quo in which 95% of babies with Down’s syndrome are aborted in their mothers’ womb.”
“However, as Conor makes clear, it is not. Every abortion is a great sadness and the extremely high rates of abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome are no exception. Every life matters, born or unborn, with or without a disability.”