By Sarah Mac Donald - 10 May, 2016
A group representing parents with children diagnosed with life limiting conditions, along with other pro life groups, have hit back at President Michael D Higgins’ wife over her comments on abortion.
Speaking after a debate organised by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland in Trinity College last week, Sabina Higgins said it was “outrage” against women that in the case of “foetal abnormality”, a person should be “made carry” the baby to term.
“There has to be the choice that you know that, what do you call it, that foetal abnormality, that the person or persons should be made carry, you know, and sit in, you know. These are really outrages against women and outrages against the world and nature,” Mrs Higgins said.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the group EveryLifeCounts responded by saying it was sad to see Sabina Higgins “push abortion for babies like ours because of their severe disability”.
The statement continued, “Their lives were short but they mattered and they had value. And surely the President’s wife should know that there is no such medical diagnosis as a ‘fatal, foetal abnormality’. She should withdraw her remarks and apologise for the hurt caused.”
Sabina Higgins’ abortion call an abuse of privilege and a shameful targeting of babies with disabilities
The Life Institute accused the President’s wife of an “attack on the Constitutional right to life of unborn babies” and said it was “an absolute abuse of power and privilege”.
Spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain said Ms Higgins’ comments, targeting unborn babies with a disability, were particularly offensive to families who had lost a child to a life-limiting condition.
“The President’s wife is unelected but uses the platform of the supposedly non-political office of her husband to amplify her support for abortion,” said Niamh Uí Bhriain.
“The fact that she has targeted babies with a disability to justify an abortion call is, in my view, reprehensible. It is shameful to see Ms Higgins use the language of discrimination – misinformed and discriminatory phrases like ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, which are not a medical diagnosis – despite a call by parents for an end to this language and discriminatory attitudes towards unborn babies with a severe disability,” she said.
“It seems that Ms Higgins is seizing the pulpit of the Presidential office to push her own agenda on the killing of unborn babies. This is unprecedented, and has ensured that the office of President is now seen as part of an abortion campaign, a move which would be opposed by the majority of Irish people,” she said.
Separately, the Independent Senator Rónán Mullen described Sabina Higgins’ intervention in abortion debate as “regrettable”.
In a statement on Monday, he said that many of those who voted for her husband in the 2011 presidential election would have done so on the understanding that there would be no inappropriate interference from the presidential household in political matters.
“In her comments, she has failed to speak to the experience of all families who received a tragic diagnosis during a pregnancy – and many will have been deeply wounded by her denial of their deceased children’s dignity and rights. Hopefully there will be no more such comments from Áras an Uachtaráin,” Senator Mullen said.
Last January, Dr Martin McCaffrey, a leading neonatologist and a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, spoke at the Perinatal Care Conference held at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, which was co-hosted by Every Life Counts, SOFT Ireland, and Féileacáin and the International Trisomy Alliance.
The conference focused on the care and treatment of babies prenatally diagnosed with life limiting conditions such as anencephaly and Trisomy 13, and attendees heard from both medical professionals as well as the parents of children diagnosed with these serious and life limiting conditions.
Dr McCaffrey focused on how medical practitioners should be providing optimal care for babies prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 13 and 18.
He discussed how often the parents he interacts with have trouble finding doctors who are willing to provide even the more basic care to their babies who they love with all their hearts and who enrich their lives so much.
Frequently, the judgment of these doctors is clouded by their own preconceived notions of people with severe disabilities, he suggested.
He talked about how parents sometimes found themselves pressured by doctors to terminate their pregnancies where their babies were found to have a serious disability.
One parent told him, “I was told by the geneticist that the only way I could get an appointment with the main obstetrician was if I was booking a termination.”
Dr McCaffrey said he wanted parents to have better and more positive options for their kids and the way in which he speaks of these children gives great hope to families.
“At the end of the day what we are fighting for are these wonderful, beautiful children who may have very short limited lives,” he said.