Campaigners have claimed a No vote in Ireland’s abortion referendum will protect unborn children with Down syndrome – despite Government assurances that disability will not be grounds to end pregnancy.
The Love Both campaign, which is calling for people to vote against repealing the eighth amendment on May 25, launched a video on Tuesday featuring 23-year-old Conor O’Dowd, who has Down syndrome.
The launch came after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was “wrong” for the group to use children with the condition in campaign posters.
He said the posters, which have also been criticised by Minister for Health Simon Harris, were an attempt to “muddy the waters” and it was clear in proposed legislation that disability would not be grounds for an abortion.
I am voting Yes for all the women in my life; my mum, my sisters, my female friends and colleagues. Any woman can face a difficult & deeply personal crisis in her life & should be able to access the compassionate care she needs here at home. #WhoNeedsYourYes #Together4Yes— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) May 14, 2018
But Cora Sherlock, from the Love Both campaign, said: “Yesterday Simon Harris said that the Government ‘specifically excluded disability’ as a grounds for abortion in the proposed legislation, but this is not correct.
“The reality is that there is no such exclusion in the bill, specific or otherwise.”
The campaign video shows Mr O’Dowd, from Co Louth, saying: “I love my life. Please save babies with Down syndrome.”
Ms Sherlock said: “Conor is just one of the people with Down syndrome who have come forward in the last few weeks to speak out against the Government’s abortion proposals.”
Mr O’Dowd was at a campaign press conference at Buswells Hotel in Dublin with his mother Audrey and Monica Haderean, who found out her baby Cris had Down syndrome while she was pregnant.
Ms Haderean said: “You get no support in hospital, you are just pushed to terminate the pregnancy. They will make arrangements for you to travel to England.”
Mr Varadkar and Mr Harris joined other ministers to canvass for the Yes vote in Dublin on Tuesday morning.
Mr Varadkar said: “When we amended our constitution back in 1983 to outlaw abortion people thought that’s what it would do but it hasn’t.
“In reality, nine or 10 women every day travel to the United Kingdom to end their pregnancies, and increasingly women are buying pills over the internet and taking them at home, so that is actually quite a dangerous situation – and we believe that we should face up to the reality of abortion and provide for it in our own country but with the necessary restrictions.”
Campaigners from Women Hurt, a group of women who regret having abortions, held an event on Grafton Street in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon.
Group co-founder Bernadette Goulding said she terminated a pregnancy while living in England.
She said: “Initially there was relief, but it was short-lived. I became depressed, anxious, panic stricken and suicidal.
“I had nightmares, continuous nightmares about my aborted child. I was grieving for my baby, I was not grieving for a bunch of cells.”
Campaigners for both Yes and No votes also gathered outside Leinster House, where pro-choice demonstrators attempted to cover anti-abortion placards by holding up white and rainbow coloured flags.