Niamh Ui Bhriain

Since when is murder a solution to illness?: babies with a fatal diagnosis have a right to life

Niamh Ui Bhriain
By Niamh Ui Bhriain

“She was the most amazing little person I could ever put my eyes on. I kissed her and cried .... but most of all I just loved her and held her. I had the 3 greatest days of my life with this little girl and I could not imagine life without knowing her.”
                  - Dawn, whose baby girl Amanda, was born with anencephaly and lived for three days.

These days, ultrasound scans give an unprecedented window to the womb. It’s pretty amazing for parents to see their baby moving and growing as she or he comes to birth.

But this technology also allows us to see when something is wrong with baby, and, on rare occasions, disorders such as anencephaly or Trisomy 18 show up on the ultrasound. This can mean that baby won’t live for long after birth - though there are some truly astonishing and wonderful exceptions - or that he or she might not make it to birth at all.

Naturally, these are hugely traumatic and distressing situations, and everyone would feel enormous sympathy for parents faced with a fatal diagnosis for their baby. In the past month, the Irish media has been saturated with the testimonies of Irish women who, having received such diagnoses, went to Britain to have their babies aborted. They are now calling for a change in Irish law, and want the practises available in Britain to be made legal here. Those practises include what is known as feticide, where the baby, alive and kicking in the womb, receives a lethal injection into the heart.

Whether by feticide then, or by some other method, the lives of babies with fatal disabilities would be ended, not by allowing nature to take her course, but by the intervention of an abortionist or other medical practitioner. Can this really be the best answer for parents and for baby in these very upsetting circumstances?

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It’s important to look at the reality of what’s currently happening in Ireland and at the outcomes for children diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.

These fatal diagnoses are rare, but they happen, and one of the things that has not been acknowledged is that most Irish mothers in these situations carry their babies to term. The Irish Times reported that up to 90% of mothers do not elect to abort their children in these circumstances. You could be forgiven for thinking that the opposite was the case because of recent media reporting, but what’s crystal clear is that all parents in this situation deserve much more than our sympathy - they need us to put professional support systems in place.

That’s why the Life Institute has written to the Minister for Health urging him to establish perinatal hospice services as expeditiously as possible. Many parents facing a fatal diagnosis believe that their children would suffer unbearably following birth - and are not made aware that perinatal hospice care would work to eliminate that suffering.

The good news is that, according to leading experts in the field, centres offering this essential care are not difficult to establish or maintain. In a recent article in the Washington Times, Dr Byron Calhoun of West Virginia University, explained that “all the typical hospital needs is a few extra rooms for these families.” Dr Calhoun explained that the perinatal hospice movement supports parents of children expected to die soon after birth. It offers nurses, chaplains, neonatologists, social workers, bereavement counselors and even a photographer to capture brief moments. “Time with the baby is extremely important to these moms,” he said. “Families want a live birth, a baptism, a chance to hold the baby; to give as much love a child can have in their brief life.”

As Dr Calhoun pointed out, “the only alternative parents are given is termination of pregnancy or they’re told they are on their own.” This should not be acceptable for a society which cares for its most vulnerable citizens.

Where abortion has become readily available, up to 95% of babies diagnosed with anencephaly are aborted, according to the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. And, tragically, this rate then becomes the norm for babies diagnosed with other conditions, such as Downs Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis. The facts seem to support the contention that, once we remove the right to life from children with severe disabilities, the definition of being ‘incompatible with life’ stretches further and further.

That’s because we cannot get away from the core ethical principle which must underpin all these discussions: unborn children - whatever their disability, and however short their life may be - have a right to life.

It’s to be regretted then, that recent reporting has sometimes been badly misinformed. For example, the ability of these special children to spend precious time with their parents has been - deliberately or otherwise - vastly understated. It’s been repeated again and again that children with fatal diagnoses are ‘incompatible with life’ - a statement that has correctly been described as a judgment rather than a diagnosis. The impression is given that they will never live, even briefly, after birth, but that’s certainly not always the case. Children with Trisomy 18 or Edwards syndrome for example often live between 5 and 15 days after they are born, and 8% live longer than a year, according to the Trisomy 18 Foundation.

Anencephalic babies similarly often live beyond birth, however briefly. Their parents, broken-hearted and devastated though they may be, have spoken most movingly and courageously of the great joy and tremendous love they experienced in having the opportunity to share that time with their children.

The voices of those parents have been completely shut out of the discussion in the past month in Ireland. I spoke to one mother of a baby with anencephaly who treasured the time she spent feeling her baby moving and kicking before birth, and who then had several hours to say goodbye to her child. She told me that the way the current debate was being played out made her feel as if her little girl’s life was judged as being worthless; a judgment she passionately rejected.

Another mother pointed out that if demands to change the current law succeeded, the right to life of all babies with fatal diagnoses would be taken away. Her baby boy would have had no inherent right to life: whether he lived or died wouldn’t have been about the tragedy of his disorder any longer - it would have been solely down to the decision made by his parents.

She also said she was very concerned for parents who feel that abortion is an answer, and warned that, in time, abortion may be seen as the only option by a health service reluctant to spend resources on babies who they feel are ‘better off dead’. Research in this area is pretty thin, but one 2005 Dutch study suggested that women who aborted for reasons of foetal abnormality showed severe post-traumatic stress up to seven years later.

It comes down to this: whatever the crisis, we can find a better answer than abortion. It was disturbing to see abortion campaigners like the Irish Family Planning Association [a Planned Parenthood affiliate]  attempt to use these sad situations to further their own agenda - which is to see abortion on demand legalised in Ireland. Their only answer to the trauma facing parents is to offer the medieval solution of abortion. We reject that solution - and are resolved instead to work towards a answer that loves and protects both mother and baby.

  • To see testimonies from parents who’ve carried their children to term see
  • Also read the amazing story of Baby Faith Hope who lived with anencephaly for 93 days on this beautiful blog written by her mother Myah.
  • The Dutch study can be read here: Korenromp, Christiaens, van den Bout, et al, ‘Longterm psychological consequences of pregnancy termination for fetal abnormality: a cross-sectional study,’ Prenatal Diagnosis, 2005 March 25(3), 253-60,

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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