Mum: Children with severe disabilities aren’t ‘doomed’

A mother whose daughter has a severely life-limiting disability has challenged a judge in Northern Ireland who said such children are “doomed”.

Mr Justice Horner made the comments in a ruling on abortion last month. On Wednesday, a further decision made it clear that it was for politicians to make any changes to the law.

The current position in Northern Ireland – that abortion is only allowed if the mother’s life is at risk – remains unchanged at present.

‘Nothing to protect’

In November’s ruling Judge Horner said in cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormalities’, “there is no life to protect”.

“When the foetus leaves the womb, it cannot survive independently. It is doomed. There is nothing to weigh in the balance.”

But writing in the Irish Independent, Tracy Harkin explained how her daughter who has the rare condition Trisomy 13 has just celebrated her ninth birthday.


Harkin commented that children like hers are not “‘doomed foetuses’ – they are babies with severe disabilities”.

… their lives are worth protecting

Tracy Harkin

“They are human and deserve human rights. Justice Horner is simply wrong: their lives are worth protecting.”

Harkin explained that she had read the judge’s words as she sat with her daughter, Kathleen Rose.

“We’ve just celebrated her 9th birthday with balloons, cake, family and friends – just like we have done for all our children. We treasure every day we have with her.”

Horribly misinformed

Harkin went on to say that families who had only “hours, days or weeks” after birth with their children pour “a lifetime of love into that short time”.

She said that children such as her own bring “so much joy and love and pride to their parents”.

“With all due respect to the learned judge, his remarks seemed horribly misinformed, not only regarding the lived experience of tens of thousands of parents, but of the research and progress made in recent times, and of the actual outcomes for babies diagnosed with a life-limiting condition.”


The decisions from the High Court in Belfast came as the result of a judicial review brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

It remains to be seen if there will be an appeal.

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