Parents whose children were diagnosed with life-limiting conditions such as anencephaly and Trisomy 13 have said that they are “hurt and appalled” that the President’s wife, Sabina Higgins, has called for abortion where the baby has a severe disability.
In a speech to midwives in Trinity College, Ms Higgins said that it was an ‘outrage’ that women whose babies who had a ‘foetal abnormality’ were ‘made’ carry to term.
Tracy Harkin of the support and advocacy group Every Life Counts said Ms Higgins’ remarks were hurtful and appalling, and showed very little understanding of the issues involved or of the immense love and joy these babies brought to their families.
“It is really appalling that, in an age where we expect our commentators to be cognisant of harmful language and of the rights of people with disabilities, that the President’s wife has made these remarks,” she said.
“Ms Higgins clearly does not understand these conditions or the issues involved. The ugly phrase ‘fatal, foetal abnormalities’ is not a medical diagnosis, and there is no condition, none whatsoever, where a doctor can say for certain that a baby will not live beyond birth,” she said.
“My own daughter, Kathleen Rose, is aged 9 and living with Trisomy 13, a condition described by campaigners as a ‘fatal, foetal abnomality’. Does Ms Higgins think she has no right to life?’ asked Ms Harkin.
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The Every Life Counts spokeswoman said that many parents in the group had lost their babies to these conditions, and that, while the pain and grief was immense, the time parents had with their babies was tremendously important and was a pathway to healing. She said that Ms Higgins’ remarks implying that women were always forced to carry such sick babies would cause immense hurt.
“These are our children, and we are tired of abortion supporters using our loss and our pain to push their own agenda. Parents tell us all the time that they needed better support, such as perinatal hospice care, and a better understanding when they get this devastating diagnosis – and that a dismissal of the value of their baby’s life is hurtful beyond measure,” she said.
“Today they feel that Sabina Higgins has misused her powerful (but unelected) position to disparage the worth of their beautiful children, whose lives were precious even if they were short, and that she has added to the misinformation around this issue.”
“Is Ms Higgins aware of new research showing that women who undergo abortion after a diagnosis of anencephaly are significantly more likely to suffer depression and despair? Is she aware that we hear increasingly that parents come under subtle but persistent pressure to go to England for an abortion in these circumstances?” she asked.
“Her comments are appalling. She should withdraw her remarks and apologise,” said the Every Life Counts spokeswoman.