Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome' - advocacy group says ahead of abortion referendum

Anti-abortion campaigners (Brian Lawless/PA)
Anti-abortion campaigners (Brian Lawless/PA)

Kathy Armstrong

Campaigners have been urged to "stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome" by referencing the condition in the run up to the abortion referendum, a leading advocacy group has said.

Down Syndrome Ireland said that they want people to not refer to Down syndrome or use photos of people with the genetic disorder ahead of the upcoming vote on the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal rights to the mother and the foetus.

They said on their website: "A pro-life lobby group called Love Both is using an image of a little girl with Down syndrome on campaign pamphlets which are being distributed to households.

"This has come on top of a number of references appearing in the media over the past few days where campaigners on both sides of the debate are using people with Down syndrome to present their views."

The organisation said that this has caused a lot of stress and hurt to people with Down syndrome and their families.

"This is very disrespectful to both children and adults with Down syndrome and their families. It is also causing a lot of stress to parents.

Stock photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Stock photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire

"People with Down syndrome should not be used as an argument for either side of this debate.

"Down Syndrome Ireland believes that it is up to each individual to make their own decision about which way to vote in the upcoming referendum.

"We are respectfully asking both sides of the campaign debate, all political parties and any other interested groups to stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome to promote their campaign views," the statement said.

As the divisive debate over possible changes to our strict abortion laws continue, Down Syndrome Ireland said it is important that people on both sides are "respectful."

They said: "We would also like to remind campaigners on both sides of the debate that people with Down syndrome listen to the news and read media articles, including social media content.

"We ask that the tone of the debate is respectful towards all people with disabilities."

Meanwhile, LoveBoth said in a statement to Independent.ie; "Some people are suggesting that photos of children with Down Syndrome should not be used in the debate on the 8th Amendment.

"When legislation in other countries has led to over 90pc of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome being aborted, I don’t believe as a society we can afford to censor this reality."


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