Eighth Amendment and Down syndrome

A chara, – Fintan O'Toole argues that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed and abortion made available "there is very little evidence" that Irish women will "will abort babies with Down syndrome en masse" ("Child with Down syndrome will be face of anti-abortion campaign", January 23rd).

While it is good to see him use the word “babies” when referring to the unborn, his claim concerning these children is only true if we exclude what we know to have happened in other western democracies with liberal abortion regimes. In those jurisdictions, it has been proven to be sadly all too true that abortion is the common fate of Down syndrome babies.

Much as I would like to think that Ireland would prove the exception to the rule, I find it difficult to believe that if we introduced a regime where healthy babies could be aborted for no reason, that those who were diagnosed prior to birth as having Down syndrome, or indeed other health issues, would not also be aborted at rates such as to make the term “en masse” very applicable indeed. – Is mise,




Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – I refer to the letter “The Eighth Amendment and disability” (January 22nd), which claims that there is no evidence that legislation on abortion in line with recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee will be abused to prevent the birth of children with disabilities.

The experience of other European countries – Britain and Denmark, for instance – proves that disability-selective abortion is the most common outcome of a non-fatal genetic or chromosomal anomaly diagnosis. This is the case also for those countries, such as Germany, where foetal abnormality is not an explicit ground for termination of prenatal life.

A 12-week limit is ineffective for two reasons. Non-invasive tests are already offered prior to 12 weeks in many private clinics and it is only a matter of time before they become more widely available.

But even if an abnormality were discovered later in the pregnancy, disability-selective abortion will happen anyway if, following the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee, abortion will be lawful without gestational limits on mental health grounds.

Keeping the Eighth Amendment is the only effective way to prevent disability-selective abortion in Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Research Officer,

The Iona Institute,

Merrion Square,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – On the subject of Down syndrome (DS), Fintan O’Toole writes that “the combination of better screening techniques and relatively free access to abortion presents the possibility of essentially eliminating DS”.

This is not the case. Eliminating DS will have to wait until a way is discovered either to prevent the chromosomal basis, or to correct it.

Until then DS will continue to occur. The point is not about eliminating DS, but about eliminating the children who have the chromosomal pattern.

Your columnist hits the nail on the head, however, when he points to the failings to provide the full support and care to which every child with DS is entitled as a full and equal citizen and member of the community of humankind. – Is mise,



Dublin 16.