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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C

'She was not a baby with a fatal foetal abnormality, she was my baby, and she was perfect'

We are being asked to sanction every future abortion in Ireland on the basis of my pain, and the pain of women like me, writes Vicky Wall.

MY LITTLE GIRL, Líadán, was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a life limiting condition also known as Edwards Syndrome, a condition which arises because of an extra chromosome being present. Liadan was born at 32 weeks and passed away that day.

Like too many women in Ireland, I know what it is like to hear a doctor telling you that your unborn child will not survive.

‘I know that agony’

I know that pain. I know that agony. I know that hopelessness and despair. For some women it is accompanied by a feeling of failure. The questions: What did I do wrong? Is it my fault?

There is no grief like the loss of a child. It really doesn’t matter how old that child is. There are women in Ireland who have lost adult sons and daughters. There are women who have lost children. There are women like me who knew that loss would come before their child saw even the light of day.

In my case, with Líadán, I knew that above all else, I had to be able to say goodbye in person. To meet her. To let her, if only for a moment, breathe the free air and touch her hand to mine.

‘She was my baby, and she was perfect’

She was not a baby with a fatal foetal abnormality, she was my baby, and she was perfect. Her life was short, but her life was full of the kind of love that you cannot express in words.

The bond between a mother and a child is sometimes described as sacred. That word does not do it justice. It is more than sacred – it defines the very nature of us as a species. Our unbreakable commitment to each other. Our solidarity. The way we are not just two separate individuals, but made of the same blood, the same flesh, and the same bone.

When a doctor told me to consider an abortion for Líadán, I recoiled in horror. To someone who does not understand the bond between a mother and her child, it might seem like an imperfect baby is a burden. It might seem like mercy to “end the suffering” or “ease the pain”.

We convince ourselves of our own goodness. It’s the curse of the human condition. Every horror we perpetrate has some higher goal, some noble purpose.

‘Their lives are taken from them’

In the UK, nine out of every ten babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are not permitted to see a single sunrise. Their lives and their experience are taken from them in the name of mercy. A life that could be so full of joy and happiness is reduced to a potential problem.

The women who have these abortions are not bad people. I do not condemn them. I do not wish them ill. I do not write this to hurt them. I do not campaign for them to suffer. But the culture that tells them that abortion is a solution, or that abortion is merciful, or that abortion is kind? That has to go.

In Ireland we’re being asked to import this culture. A YES vote on Friday will not only be a licence to kill, it’ll be a message to the public that sometimes, killing is the right thing to do. The just thing to do. The expected thing to do.

‘This is not care’

This is what happens everywhere abortion is introduced. Leo Varadkar was right when he said that restrictive abortion would lead to abortion on demand.

Look at Germany. In Germany there is no law sanctioning abortion for disability. But yet 9 in 10 pregnancies where Down Syndrome is detected end in abortion, on mental health grounds. When your culture tells a woman that her pregnancy is a crisis, she will experience it as a crisis pregnancy. When your culture and your laws say the opposite – that this is not a crisis pregnancy, fewer women will see their pregnancies as something to be ended.

We are being asked to sanction every future abortion in Ireland on the basis of my pain, and the pain of women like me. Our suffering has been shamelessly used by the YES campaign. Our suffering has been used by the government to bring in abortion on demand in Ireland.

They want the public to feel our sorrow and our misery and our despair, and to turn their sympathy into a licence to kill. Well, I for one, and many others, will not stand by and stay silent while our suffering is used to inflict death on perfectly healthy babies.

That is not medicine. It is not care. It is not compassion. It is indeed change, but not a change that we should ever countenance. That’s why I’ll be voting NO.


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