A Fianna Fáil senator has been accused of reaching a new low after he said allowing abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities would be "depriving future Special Olympics athletes of being born".
Brian Ó Domhnaill said allowing terminations in such circumstances could lead to babies with Down’s syndrome being "left to die on sterilised trays".
As the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill began committee stage hearings in the Seanad, there was three hours of debate on allowing abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities — where a baby has no chance of survival after being born.
Mr Ó Domhnaill said he could not support the amendment as it would lead to the destruction of a human life "simply because the unborn child is disabled".
Labour’s Aideen Hayden said it was "incredibly low" to suggest there is any link between disability and fatal abnormalities — especially as the House was preparing for a discussion last night on the Special Olympics.
"I am absolutely convinced there is no connection and I think the senator is misleading," she said.
Mr Ó Domhnaill replied that "of course there is" a link, adding: "The senator is depriving future Special Olympics athletes of being born."
The Donegal senator said 3,100 abortions take place in Britain each year in cases where the foetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality or disability. "A third of all those relate to Down’s syndrome. There are 700 children who are aborted in England who if born, would have Down’s syndrome."
He added that in 102 of the cases, "those children were born alive and left to die on sterilised trays in operating theatres".
He also said women who abort a foetus with a fatal abnormality were increasing their risk of still births, premature births, giving birth to children with cerebral palsy, or suffering maternal death in future pregnancies.
His comments came a day after his party colleague, senator Jim Walsh, said abortions can result in "sexual promiscuity" and alcohol and drug abuse in women. There was an angry response to graphic descriptions by Mr Walsh of "grasping and crushing" tissue during abortions and his description a suction machine entering the cervix, "when it gets hold of something, it does not let go". Some people walked out of the Seanad chamber when he said: "You can extract the skull pieces. Many times the face will come out and stare back at you. Congratulations, you have affirmed your right to choose." In response to these comments, Minister Joan Burton said some of the men who were "venting in terms of their views on women who may be in life and death situations... ought to actually cop themselves on".
Pope Francis I has sent a message to the faithful in Ireland and Britain focusing on care for unborn children, their mothers, elderly people, and those who are suicidal.
The message, to be delivered on Sunday when the Day for Life is being marked in England and Wales, comes less than a week after the Government voted to allow abortion in limited circumstances. The Vatican said the message was also intended for Ireland, even though Oct 6 is the nominated Day for Life here.