A legal case in Ireland reveals two stark truths about abortion

A year ago, parents in the Republic of Ireland who aborted their healthy child settled a legal case against medics who had misdiagnosed him with Edwards’ syndrome.

Mum Rebecca Price underwent a standard 12-week scan, but one week later Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing indicated the presence of Edwards’ syndrome, or Trisomy 18. Babies with the condition usually die before or shortly after birth.

They were reportedly told not to wait for the results of a full chromosomal analysis, and so Rebecca followed her consultant’s advice to abort her unborn son. Only later did the results reveal that he never had the condition.

Legal but not right

Such cases reveal two stark truths: doctors can get diagnoses wrong, and there is a widespread view that an unborn child believed to have a disability does not deserve to live.

When Rebecca and her partner Patrick challenged the hospital, their solicitor told of their “interminable sadness and grief”. They were grieving because their ill-informed decision resulted in the loss of their child. But even if their son did have Edwards’ syndrome, aborting him should still have been cause for grief.

just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.

Abortion is wrong. But in the UK our law is particularly discriminatory with regards to unborn children who may have a disability. Abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons but is available at full-term for children deemed to have a disability. This includes Edwards’ syndrome and the more common Down’s syndrome, and even conditions such as cleft palate – a very treatable condition.

But just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.

Disability rights campaigners Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson say the current law is discriminatory, and are in the middle of a legal challenge. The High Court rejected their case last September, saying it was a matter for Parliament, but the Court of Appeal will hear the case on 13 July.

Heidi Crowter outside the High Court
Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson with supporters outside the High Court last year.

‘Most precious’

Tragically, far too many mothers go through with abortion. But there are those who choose life. Some of them have shared the joy that comes with keeping their child, despite the barriers.

Parents Colin and EJ Harwood chose to keep their unborn daughter after medics told them she had a rare brain condition and that she was “incompatible with life”.

But the doctors got it wrong. And as EJ says, if they had given into pressure to abort they would never have seen the doctors change the diagnosis and agree that their daughter could survive.

After giving birth to Shalome, EJ lamented that medics do not direct women to means of support which would have “have helped us celebrate and helped us feel more prepared, and not alone.”

There’s also Charlene McCabe, a mum who shared how important it was to spend every moment she had with her daughter Myla when she was born with Edwards’ syndrome.

It was the most precious hour and 55 minutes of my life

She said: “It’s the most precious hour and 55 minutes of my life and I wouldn’t swap it for all the money in the world or anything else in the world”.

Charlene emphasised that abortion isn’t the only option, and that the moments you have with your child “will live in your heart forever”.

Children, despite their physical or mental capacity, are made in God’s image and so are intrinsically valuable from conception.

The unborn are among the most vulnerable in our society. Our laws should protect them, not seek to dehumanise those deemed less worthy.

For other stories of families who chose life, visit