OPINION: I am disabled but here's where I stand on the 8th Amendment

Steve Daunt reveals how the story of one couple, whose son had Fatal Foetal Abnormalities, compelled him to weigh in on Ireland's most contentious issue

OPINION: I am disabled but here's where I stand on the 8th Amendment

Members of the public at a rally in favour of repealing the 8th amendment to the Constitution in September | Image: Photocall

He was a wanted baby.

Those words will stick with me. Laura and Warren were ready to welcome baby Dara into the world.

They told their story to my colleagues on Lunchtime and you read about their story here.

They wanted the baby. Even if he had Down syndrome. They wanted to bring Dara into the world. He would have been surrounded by love. Unfortunately for all of them, Dara had Fatal Foetal Abnormalities which meant that he had a very reduced chance of living.

Like every story we have heard about FFA, Laura and Warren were left with no choice to travel to Liverpool to have an abortion. They eloquently outline the costs, financial and spiritual, it cost them, their family and their wider circle of friends.

They would have preferred to have gone to their local hospital, where they were known, and said goodbye to baby Dara in that environment.

According to a recent Newstalk poll, 76% of voters want the 8th Amendment changed to allow access to abortion services in the case of FFA. 78% of those polled also want rape and incest victims to have access to abortion services.

We will get to what the politicians say later, but people ask me: ‘You are disabled. Where do you stand?’

To be honest, I have been avoiding writing anything personal about abortion as the issue is so divisive. In general, I have been pro-choice since my years in college. Women in crises need choices.

Another aspect of the Newstalk poll that caught my eye was the 61% who supported the right to choose in the case of non-fatal abnormalities and/or disabilities.

Where do I stand on that?

I was surprised by that. Shocked would be too strong a word. As I said earlier, I have an innate trust in people. Irish people understand disabled people have much to contribute to society. They remember events like the Special Olympics. They are a loving people.

Will this last? Am I being too optimistic? Those from the pro-life side would tell me I am. If there was no eighth, disabled children would be killed. This is, at best, silly. What annoys me more is the stance of some politicians who claim to be pro-life but that stance only covers the pregnancy. Once the baby is born, well, you are on your own momma.

Your disabled baby needs a medical card? Join the Queue.

You want to send your disabled kid to a local school? Really?

Your house needs renovating? Oops, this year’s budget has run out.

As your disabled child enters adulthood, depending on the level of impairment, he or she can look forward to independence or some form of care packages. Again we see personal assistant hours being cut while you have to ask yourself would you really want to live in a care home?

These small things make the difference. The struggle will seem worth it. Let’s be honest here having a disability or being a parent of a disabled child is a struggle.

If parents do not get support, if disabled teenagers do not see role models living rounded lives and contributing to society then that figure of 64% may well rise.

The disabled experience may well be devalued. The old idea that disabled people are some kind of burden might creep back.

That scares me. My pro-choice instincts would be severely challenged if and when abortion in the case of disability becomes some sort of norm.

As I’m writing this, I hope you see the utter complexity of the issue. I began by asserting that parents who face into situations of Fatal Foetal Abnormalities must be given the right to stay in Ireland if they want the procedure. It is not killing.

Even using that word - killing - takes away from stories like those of Laura and Warren. Theirs is a real story.

Their child would never have existed outside the womb.

I support them in their choice. The sad thing is some politicians want to jump on a bandwagon that runs away from the issue. They kick it to another committee or they wrap themselves in the pro-life flag.

Remember that when you vote.