Response to Minister's Comments


Bereaved parents slam Leo Varadkar's 'cruel, misleading and deliberately offensive abortion comments



Parents in the support group Every Life Counts whose children were diagnosed with life-limiting conditions have said that comments made by Health Minister Leo Varadkar on abortion were 'cruel, horribly misleading and deliberately offensive' and that the Minister should apologise for his remarks immediately.

Minister Varadkar was commenting on the provision of abortion where unborn children have a profound disability such as anencephaly or Trisomy 13 which means they might not live for long after birth. He said that Ireland's abortion laws required parents to explain to 'all enquirers that their baby is dead'.

Tracy Harkin of Every Life Counts said that Mr Varadkar's comments were "first of all, absolutely untrue", and said that it was 'shameful' that the Minister had deliberately misled the public and caused huge hurt to parents who had lost children to a life-limiting condition.

"What is most disturbing is that Mr Varadkar is a medical doctor, so he knows that there is no truth to what he said. He knows that our babies were alive and kicking in the womb, however severe their disability, and that to describe them as 'dead' is either woefully ignorant or deliberately misleading, hurtful and offensive " she said. "he may believe they are better off dead but we, as parents, knew better and we loved them as our children, however short their lives were."

"It's very clear that Mr Varadkar views children with these profound disabilities as less than human, a view which is at best medieval, and a view which we as parents to these children find absolutely unacceptable. He should apologise to parents for the manner in which he has dismissed the value of their children's lives. I've had parents calling me since his comments broke, parents who treasured and valued the short time they had with babies, and who are devastated by the cruelty of Mr Varadkar's remarks and his dismissal of the value of their children's lives."

"He has dehumanised our children, who we loved and continue to love with all our hearts, and who many of our members, as parents, grieve for every day," she said.

Ms Harkin also said the Minister was 'behind the times when it came to a modern understanding of profound disability". "He does not appear to be up to speed with the medical literature on this subject which shows that the views of medical professionals and policy makers need to change," she said.

"My daughter, Kathleen Rose, was diagnosed with Trisomy 13, a condition which is often described as 'fatal' or 'incompatible with life' but she is now 8 years old, attending school and brings great love and joy to our family. Yet she is a baby whom Leo Varadkar described as having 'no chance' of survival. I find his remarks really disturbing and upsetting," she said.

Ms Harkin said that the Minister seemed to be rushing to support an outdated view that abortion was best for babies with life-limiting conditions, but that the evidence was mounting to show the damage of these late term abortions for families.

"He addresses widening the law but what he doesn't address is the practical implications of widening the laws, and the horrible reality for the mother and the baby," she said. "He has refused however to commit to improving support services for families in these situations, and he needs to roll out a standardised modern model of care - perinatal hospice care - whereby the father, mother and family are all involved in providing a loving environment to spend precious time with their sick baby,".

Ms Harkin said the Minister should rethink his remarks and his offensive and cruel remarks and apologise to bereaved parents for the hurt and offence he caused.