The parents of children born with severely life-limiting conditions have criticised the Labour Party in the Republic of Ireland for using disability as a reason to liberalise abortion in the country.
The party’s manifesto is set to contain a pledge to hold a referendum on Ireland’s eighth amendment – which contains protections for the unborn.
Labour and others are seeking to widen the grounds for abortion to include severely life-limiting conditions by repealing the eighth amendment.
Mother Aileen Smith spoke passionately against liberalising abortion. She said: “My child had anencephaly. Her brain did not form properly, which meant she lived for just six days with us, but she was loved and cherished and she will always be remembered.
“It is very, very distressing to me to hear anyone talk about my baby as if she was less than human because of her disability – that her right to life could be taken away because her disability was profound.
“Lilly Ann was no less human than any other little girl, and what families need is help and support, not abortion.”
Pro-life initiative Every Life Counts said that it is “hugely distressing” for families who have lost disabled children to hear a narrative which suggests that abortion was a better option for them.
Spokeswoman for the group, Tracy Harkin, said: “We’re currently seeking better services for parents in this situation – a new form of care called perinatal hospice care – but all we are hearing from Labour is abortion and more abortion”.
She added: “Where is their sense of compassion or their sense of equality for children with disabilities?”
Earlier this year, the organisation travelled to Switzerland to mark the launch of the Geneva Declaration on Perinatal Care, which calls for the medical establishment to discontinue the use of the term ‘incompatible with life’.
The declaration states: ‶As medical practitioners and researchers, we declare that the term ‘incompatible with life’ is not a medical diagnosis and should not be used when describing unborn children who may have a life-limiting condition.”
It goes on to say: “We fully support the development of perinatal hospice services for families who are told that their unborn child may not live for very long in the womb or after birth.″
Speaking for the group were parents of children deemed to be ‘incompatible with life’, medical experts and Republic of Ireland politician Mattie McGrath. Coverage of their talks can be seen in the video below.