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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
# the eighth
Charity's warning ahead of referendum: 'Stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome'
Down Syndrome Ireland said use of images could cause stress for parents.

DOWN SYNDROME IRELAND has released a statement calling on campaigners in the debate on the Eighth Amendment not to use images of people with Down syndrome to make their arguments.

A column by Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times yesterday drew attention to distribution of a leaflet by the Love Both group, which featured an image of a girl with Down syndrome under the banner headline ’90 per cent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in Britain are aborted’.

O’Toole wrote that he believed “the face of the campaign against repealing the Eighth Amendment … will be a delightful smiling kid with Down syndrome”.

Those who wish to have the amendment repealed must address the argument, O’Toole contended. “Any campaign has to able to take on its opponents, not on their weak points, but on their strongest grounds.”

Down Syndrome Ireland said the piece “has come on top of a number of references appearing in the media over the past few days where campaigners on both sides of the debate are using people with Down syndrome to present their views.

The charity said:

This is very disrespectful to both children and adults with Down syndrome and their families. It is also causing a lot of stress to parents. People with Down syndrome should not be used as an argument for either side of this debate.
Down Syndrome Ireland believes that it is up to each individual to make their own decision about which way to vote in the upcoming referendum.
We are respectfully asking both sides of the campaign debate, all political parties and any other interested groups to stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome to promote their campaign views.
We would also like to remind campaigners on both sides of the debate that people with Down syndrome listen to the news and read media articles, including social media content. We ask that the tone of the debate is respectful towards all people with disabilities.

The statement added:

As always, Down Syndrome Ireland will continue to support people with Down syndrome and their families throughout Ireland. If you require any support, please contact us on 01- 4266500.

TDs and Senators began to debate the report of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment last week, and a referendum on whether to repeal the amendment is expected at the start of the summer.

The report came after a three-month process where 21 deputies and senators examined the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on the issue, and listened to evidence from expert legal and medical practitioners.

You can read the full report here, and key points here. It recommends legal abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without restriction; repealing the Eighth Amendment; and for the government to legislate for abortion.

Related: FactCheck: Who got it right in this abortion debate between Ruth Coppinger and Cora Sherlock? >

Read: ‘These are not faceless women’: Key moments from the Dáil’s Eighth Amendment debate >

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