More than half of Down Syndrome pregnancies terminated after tests, claims Holles Street boss
Abortion already happens in Ireland, says Master of Holles Street
More than half of pregnant women in the country's three main maternity hospitals who are told their babies will be born with Down Syndrome are opting for a termination.
The women have availed of the diagnostic test after 12 to 13 weeks into the pregnancy, at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, the Coombe Hospital and Rotunda Hospital.
The figures obtained by the Irish Independent come after the master of Holles Street, Dr Rhona Mahony, yesterday said half of women whose babies would be born with Down Syndrome chose not to continue with the pregnancy.
"The screening test is 99pc predictive," said Dr Mahony, referring to the screening test that can be applied at between nine and 12 weeks' gestation.
She added that about 1,000 women who attend Holles Street avail of it each year.
"It looks like 50pc continue and not continue," she said.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that in Coombe in 2016 there were 21 pregnant women who were informed their baby had Down Syndrome and 14 (66pc) of these had a termination in the UK.
Five of the babies were born in the hospital, and two women had miscarriages.
Meanwhile, in the Rotunda Hospital that year there were 26 cases of pre-natal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, and 57pc of mothers had a termination.
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Figures for the National Maternity Hospital also indicate around 50pc of women who have had a test and been informed their baby will have Down Syndrome had a termination.
The statistics relate only to parents who have had a test. Most parents do not have any pre-natal test for the condition.
Around one-third of Down Syndrome pregnancies end in miscarriage and another third are at risk of death in the womb before birth.
Dr Mahony said yesterday that Down Syndrome was not just one condition.
She pointed out some of these babies will not survive, or will suffer complications such as heart defects. "Others will be born well and healthy," she told RTÉ.
Although it is not possible to have a definitive diagnosis of Down Syndrome until the pregnancy has reached the 12th to 14th week, a screening test is available earlier than that.
This screening test has a high accuracy rate but it just shows probability - and is not definitive. This test, sometimes known as the Harmony or Panorama test, can be performed from nine weeks onwards and costs €500 or more.
The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said the results would rarely be available before 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The Government has said it will allow for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy if the Eighth Amendment is repealed in the upcoming referendum. Disability would not be grounds for abortion, it said.
Dr Mahony yesterday again called for a Yes vote in the referendum - saying abortion is already in Ireland with the use of pills bought over the internet to end pregnancies.
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She also said doctors had to wait until a mother was dying before intervening to terminate a pregnancy to save her life, adding that this must change.
"We have back-street abortions where women are buying pills over the internet. They are excluded from heathcare and denied holistic care," she added.
"This creates an unacceptable risk for women."
Dr Mahony said there was also not enough invested in preventative strategies to reduce the risk of a crisis pregnancy.