The law the government is proposing won’t provide abortion on the grounds of potential disability of the foetus – only where the foetus has a “fatal condition”. Yet this still is a red herring used by some No campaigners. In fact, the 8th Amendment violates the rights of women and girls with disabilities, by denying them access to abortion services.
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The 8th Amendment is not the reason women go ahead with pregnancies after getting a diagnosis of a foetal anomaly that could cause disability. The reason is they choose to. And women who decide to end pregnancies in these circumstances will do so anyway, by travelling to another country. Blaming, shaming and punishing women and their families faced with these decisions does nothing but harm.
If society wants to respect and care for people with disabilities and their families, it should provide them with the care, services and supports they need. The State should invest in initiatives to tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with disability. It should strengthen services and opportunities, so that people with disabilities can reach their full potential, and their families are not struggling.
The rights of women with disabilities are violated by the Eighth Amendment. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was recently ratified by Ireland. It gives women with disabilities the right ‘to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of children’. The 8th Amendment impacts women and girls with disabilities disproportionately, because they face additional barriers in accessing abortion services in other countries or illegally ordering abortion medication. So until the 8th Amendment is removed, Ireland will be in breach of this Convention.