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Niamh Ui Bhriain

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Bridget has Downs Syndrome. And kids like her are changing hundreds of minds on abortion

Niamh Ui Bhriain

June 2, 2017 (Life Institute) — An opinion poll published last weekend has shown that public opinion is becoming increasingly pro-life in regard to protecting preborn children with a disability. There has been a significant fall in support for abortion on disability grounds, with a considerable majority now supporting the right to life of pre-born children with disability.

This is entirely due to the great courage shown by people with disabilities and their families who have been speaking out to say that every child has a right to life, whatever disability they may have. Their inspirational personal stories have clearly struck a chord with the public, as has their message that abortion is the very worst form of discrimination.

Two years ago, the Rally for Life adopted the theme of ‘Every Life Matters’, putting people with disabilities at the front and center of the day’s events, and of media reporting and promotion of same.

Bridget Mary Kelly, who has Down Syndrome, won the day when she told the crowd that “people with special needs have a right to life” to loud and sustained applause.

Across social media, people like Hannah Moline and Kevin Trainer and their families spoke out to say that their right to life should never be impacted by their disability. They pointed to the shocking and distressing reality that, in other countries, children with a disability are being wiped out. In Britain, 90 percent of children with Down Syndrome are aborted before birth. In Iceland, that figure is a heartbreaking 100 percent.

Parents like Anne Trainer wrote powerfully in the mainstream media about her son Kevin and the protection offered by Ireland's Eighth Amendment.

“I believe the debate on the Eighth Amendment needs to hear from families like mine," she said. "People like Kevin are not here just to give us warm and cosy feelings during the Special Olympics. Their lives matter. Their human right to life matters. Children like Kevin are facing extinction in other countries.”

“So the question is – will Ireland choose a better path, a path of compassion and love and understanding? A path where we help families to love and raise their children, rather than eliminating people with Down’s Syndrome before they are born.”

“I believe we can. The Eighth Amendment protected my son, and he was deserving of that protection. It should remain as a shining light to a world where the best and most beautiful of our citizens are being snuffed out.”

The article was massively read and shared on social media, inspiring people to look beyond the disability to the value and importance of every life.

Joseph Cronin from Donegal became the star of the #AbortionDiscriminates billboards that have been seen throughout Ireland. His cheeky smile underlines the undeniable message that ‘everybody has a right to life.’ His mother, Caitríona, said they “want Joseph to grow up in a culture that welcomes and embraces all children regardless of health or disabilities”.

Other voices include Facebook outreaches such as Stop Killing People With Disabilities, the wonderful work of Every Life Counts, which has placed the dignity and value of every child into the center of the debate, the testimonies of families such as the McBreens who have spoken about the danger of misdiagnosis and why their baby Grace is perfectly beautiful living with Down Syndrome, and, of course, the powerful BBC documentary ‘World Without Downs’.

Last weekend’s Ipsos/MRBI poll for the Irish Times was the second poll in quick succession to show that the extreme recommendations of the Citizens Assembly would be rejected by a very large majority of the electorate. The Assembly’s call for abortion on disability grounds – up to birth in some cases – horrified many people, and this poll now shows the Assembly to be completely at odds with the public on the issue.

The Irish Times poll showed that only a minority of people (36 percent) agreed with aborting a child because of a disability, and the newspaper noted that this was a significant fall from a 50 percent support indicated by a previous poll. This shift caused the paper’s editorial to fret that the issue had seen a “hardening of opposition”, and observe that this change “underlines the vulnerability of a referendum” on abortion on demand.

The notion that children with a disability are better off dead should horrify any right-thinking person, but abortion campaigners manage to dress up this extraordinary abuse of human rights as a compassionate measure precisely because people with disabilities are excluded from the debate.

The brave and inspiring people and families involved in the Every Life Matters and the Abortion Discriminates initiatives have changed that reality. They have called for better support instead of the lethal discrimination of abortion. And the people are listening.

Reprinted with permission from The Life Institute.

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