Plea to leave Down syndrome out of campaign

Down Syndrome Ireland has reiterated pleas to those on both sides of the Eighth Amendment referendum to respect people with the disorder and not to bring them into the debate.

Sinead McBreen with her daughter Grace, 3, at a LoveBoth conference in Buswells Hotel, Dublin, yesterday. Picture: Leah Farrell/

It comes as the LoveBoth group, which is campaigning for a no vote, held an event with a number of parents who said they felt pressure during pregnancy to opt for abortion after their children were diagnosed as having Down syndrome.

However, Down Syndrome Ireland chief executive Gary Owens said the organisation had already asked both sides of the campaign not to include Down syndrome issues in the debate.

He said Down Syndrome Ireland had firmly stated it will not be taking any sides and believed voters should be given the space to make up their own minds.

“We have appealed to both sides to respect people with Down syndrome and not to bring them into the debate,” said Mr Owens.

Speaking at a LoveBoth event yesterday, Monica Hardarean said there were very few positives put forward around keeping her child when a diagnosis was made.

“We could have gone to England to abort our babies and we chose to go ahead,” she said.

“Mothers are put under so much pressure to make a decision and you will think that it is in your baby’s interest to go and terminate.”

She described it as one of the “scariest times” in her life.

“Just looking back how scared we were and how the outcome is, it’s such a big difference,” she said.

“We could have been among those numbers [who terminate] and the reason we came here is to just raise awareness around this and to let women have choices in being informed about the positives as well, not only about the negatives.

“We were told so many negatives around the diagnosis that our baby had and just a few or maybe not a single positive.

“Women have to know both sides of the story, not only one side.”

Another parent, Sinead McBreen, said the decision to be made in the referendum on May 25 will have “profound effects on Ireland for generations to come”.

“I didn’t pay particular attention to this debate until I came face to face with the pressure to abort my own daughter,” she said.

“I have since come to realise that these pressures are much more widespread than an isolated case here and there.”

A group of barristers, solicitors, and other legal professionals opposing the Government’s proposals in the upcoming referendum are to hold an event in Dublin this morning.

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