8th Amendment: Parents of Down Syndrome children pledge not to be silenced at campaign launch

Update 1.43pm: Parents of children with Down Syndrome say they "won't be silenced" when it comes to the abortion debate.

Reality of Repeal billboards have been launched today by the Save the 8th Campaign, which is backed by a number of pro-life groups, including Youth Defence.

The Reality of Repeal campaign will see 70 billboards erected around the country, featuring a number of pro-life arguments.

Anne Trainer is supporting the national billboard campaign, and suggested her child's community is "being wiped off the face of the Earth with abortion".

To see this post on Facebook, click here.

Anne says that she will not be silenced in the debate.

She told the launch of the billboards: "I am a mother to an amazing little boy with Down Syndrome called Kevin. He is almost 11 years of age.

"I came here today because I wanted to say I have been appalled that media commentators and abortion campaigners sought to dictate the terms to families of children with disabilities in regard to what we could and could not say.

"And while photographs of our children should be seen, I have found this deeply upsetting, judgemental and intimidating."

She says she is scared that people like her son Kevin will disappear.

"90% of children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome in England are aborted, 98% in Denmark, and 100% in Iceland," she said.

"If we have an abortion regime in Ireland, we're likely to follow the same path. And it's scary.

"I love my son so much. I don't want him growing up in a world where people think that's he's not good enough to be born."

Conor O'Dowd, 23, has Down Syndrome. He attended the launch of the Reality of Repeal Billboards with his father Michael, who is a member of Down Syndrome Ireland and Disability Voices for life.

Like Conor and Michael, other campaigners say they will not be silenced in the abortion debate.

Earlier: Campaigner hoping for respectful debate as Government confirms plan to hold repeal referendum

A leading Pro-choice campaigner has said that she expects the referendum campaign will be more respectful than previous ones.

The Government last night confirmed that it aims to hold a referendum on the constitutional amendment on abortion by the end of May.

Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, believes that voters have a better understanding of the issue today than in the past.

"My own experience over 35 years is that it has got easier with each referendum," he said.

"It is very divisive, but I do think that there is a spirit in Ireland now which says: 'There is a problem here, we really want to find a solution, we do need to address it'."

Ailbhe Smyth

Speaking last night, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone also said that she hopes both sides will be respectful.

"The way has been cleared for the people to have their say on the Eighth Amendment," she said.

"And as we continue our preparations for the referendum, it is my firm hope that we will have a respectful debate, based on the facts."

- Digital desk

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